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A Life For A Love: A Novel

by L. Meade

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From Publishers Weekly
This sexy, densely written Israeli bestseller takes up where Erica Jong left off, documenting the escapades of an otherwise intelligent heroine who lets her comfortable marriage fall apart as she pursues erotic adventure and personal fulfillment. Bored by her husband, despite or perhaps because of the way he calls her Moley (she calls him Ratty) and uninspired by her graduate studies in biblical legends, Ya'arah yearns for passionate excitement. She meets the unlikely object of her obsession at her parents' home when her father's friend Aryeh Reven returns to Israel to care for his dying wife. Ya'arah falls head over heels for the aging Lothario, first seeking him out in the dressing room of a clothing store, then in other equally inconvenient but titillating locales. Ya'arah is enthralled by Aryeh's links to her parents' younger days, the years before the devastation of their son's death blighted their lives. Jeopardizing her career by missing meetings and ignoring assignments, leaving her husband to take their romantic vacation alone, then spying on him from an airport corner as he deplanes, Ya'arah seems bent on her own destruction. With appallingly bad timing, she shows up at Aryeh's apartment while he sits shivah with his in-laws. Shalev echoes and outdoes Jong with outrageously sensuous, often humiliating situations described by a narrator who acts as if she has lost her sanity while commenting wryly, even perceptively, on her own misdeeds. Whether Ya'arah is lying to the head of her department or interpreting ancient stories, she explodes with ingenuity and eventually insight as she comes to understand her mother's choices and, to some extent, Israeli society, with its visceral ties to the past. (Mar.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal
In this sensual first novel from Israel narrated in the first person by Ya'arah, a young woman with serious identity problems, the reader is introduced to her dysfunctional family. In an attempt to fathom her parents' strange behavior and constant battles, she is drawn into a relationship with Aryeh, a man twice her age and her father's former childhood friend. The love affair is portrayed as an addiction, sometimes cruel, at other times filled with animal magnetism and aging decay. She forsakes her sweet, sheepish, well-meaning husband, Yoni. Aryeh on the other hand is "so strong and gave you the feeling of such security but not trust." Yoni proposes a trip to Istanbul, which Ya'arah views as a mission, "not a pleasure trip but a punishment trip which would strengthen and purify." She does not go, becoming mired in family tragedy and sexual destructiveness. The book is laced with biblical allusions and much psychological underpinnings. Ya'arah achieves a modicum of maturity in the midst of much grotesque acting out. The result is a tedious sexual romp, making for a novel that is difficult to recommend.
-Molly Abramowitz, Silver Spring, MD
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist
Shalev's intensely sexual novel chronicles the obsessive affair of a young, married graduate student, Ya'arah. At first, Ya'arah's attraction to Aryeh, her father's best friend, is puzzling, but his arrogance and calculated aloofness excite her as deeply as they anger her. As the story progresses, it becomes clear that Aryeh holds the key to Ya'arah's understanding of her parents' unhappy past and her own unhappy childhood. As Ya'arah learns of her father's illness, her mother's illicit love for Aryeh, and the mysterious circumstances of her little brother's death, she gains insight into her parents' love-hate relationship. The deeply emotional novel explores the psychological aspects of love, lust, and marriage, deftly revealing the complex passions of a woman struggling against the realization that she has re-created her parents' dysfunctional relationship in her own marriage. The novel's sexual explicitness is completely appropriate for Shalev's use of Ya'arah's sexual encounters with Aryeh to make explicit the unhappiness lurking in the psyches of the mismatched lovers. Bonnie Johnston

From Kirkus Reviews
A strange and somewhat strained tale of an extramarital affair: poet Shalevs first fiction and a huge success in her native Israel. Narrator Ya'arah is a graduate student living in Jerusalem with her pleasant if unexciting husband when she meets Aryeh, her father's best friend, a jaded but attractively bearish man who immediately both repels and attracts her. With surprising rapidity (surprising even to her), she falls into an on-and-off affair with him, depicted in increasingly explicit terms, gradually undermining not only her marriage but her already shaky academic career as well. Things come to a messy peak when his wife dies and her husband plans to take her on a long-deferred honeymoon, at which point she goes to the older man to comfort him, knowing that this can only precipitate an irreparable breach in her marriage. Shalev tells this somewhat banal story in a torrential first-person stream-of-consciousness narration. The tonea tumbling welter of clauses strung together into lengthy run-on sentencesreflects the impulsive, willful mind of the narrator, but the effect on the reader quickly becomes numbing. And the pace of the story is often blunted by lengthy, uninspired philosophical discussions. On the other hand, its complex architecture, built on a series of slowly disclosed revelations of the past connections between her parents and her lover, provides a certain fascinating force. Regrettably, much of that force is vitiated by the narrative voice, which is petulant, self-involved, self-dramatizing, and emotionally disproportionate to many of the quotidian events driving the plot. Still, Bilu's translation is quite good, which may work to the book's advantage. Oddly unpleasant and yet somehow riveting. -- Copyright ©2000, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

Book Description
Hailed by The New York Times Book Review as a novel that "broke all the barriers...sexually explicit yet dense with biblical allusions and psychological insight," Love Life unbuttoned Hebrew literature and spent four months as Israel's number one best-seller. What begins as a story of a young married woman's turbulent affair with an older man rapidly devolves into a feverish, lyrical crash course in the anatomy of obsession. When Yaara meets Aryeh, her father's boyhood friend, she is instantly drawn to his impassive and archly assured presence. It is not long before she forsakes her devoted and well-meaning husband for the powerful, mysterious older man who seems to embody all that she lacks: will, strength, and the key to her parents' inaccessible pasts. They embark on a heated affair that soon spirals toward the destructive as Yaara finds that the things in Aryeh that attract her also repel her with equal intensity. With shocking immediacy, Shalev lays bare Yaara's struggle to navigate extreme terrain ranging from the sublime to the grotesque, the sacred to the profane, the liberating to the all-consuming. Love Life is cerebral, seductive, provocative, and profound.



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