Between Friends

122013_mishmash_bookBy Amos Oz
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 192 pages

Growing up Jewish in the United States, I often had the opportunity to learn about Israel and kibbutzim in Hebrew school. As I got older, I had friends who had spent time living on a kibbutz and was able to visit different kibbutzim on trips abroad. My takeaway was that the kibbutz was a type of utopia, isolated from many of the daily stresses I would face. I thought of it as a place where Zionism was embraced, where equality trumped all and where each day was a celebration of peace and beauty. This book shows this beauty of kibbutz life but balances it with a healthy dose of realism.

In this collection of short stories, Oz, an acclaimed Israeli author, delves deep into the lives and problems of various members of fictional Kibbutz Yekhat. He shares stories of complicated and fascinating individuals, including the kibbutz gardener who has a propensity for sharing tragic news, the elderly cobbler who has survived the Holocaust and the young man who wants to go to college against kibbutz orders. The stories are unique yet subtly interwoven and are peppered with relatable problems that are inescapable even in the seemingly utopian confines of a kibbutz, including questions of love, fidelity, friendship and mortality.

“Between Friends” shows kibbutz life at both its best and its worst. Moreover, it wisely uses the kibbutz as a backdrop for raw emotion and humanity and demonstrates just how masterfully Amos Oz can write.

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