Benjamin Rubin is completing his surgical residency in a Tel Aviv hospital when the director of the hospital asks him to accompany him and his wife to India to rescue their daughter who is critically ill.  This invitation distresses him, as he recognizes in it a way of removing him from competition for a position in surgery at the hospital.  He makes the trip, however, and is entranced by Indian culture and mysticism, and, eventually, not by the daughter but by the mother he accompanied.  Back in Tel Aviv, he has a brief affair with the mother, moves into an apartment she owns, leaving his mother's home, and, to allay his obsession with an unavailable woman, marries an independent-minded woman who has also traveled in India and absorbed Buddhist spirituality and Eastern philosophy she discovered there.  Working as an anesthesiologist, Benjy continues in that setting, conflicted about both work and life, unable to connect deeply with any of those whose love he has received or sought.  Eventually his wife leaves with their baby daughter to return to India, where she has found a spiritual home, and Benjy remains in a divided state of mind in a divided country where his own spiritual heritage remains to be plumbed.


The story is narrated by the main character, whose reflections invite both sympathy and skepticism; he is given to anxieties, second-guessing, obsession, and self-doubt, so his judgments-both professional and personal-appear consistently to be questionable.  The relationship of professional to personal life is one of the main threads of this sizeable novel by an Israeli novelist whose other works have focused more explicitly on the contemporary social and political context of life in Israel; this one concerns itself more with the question of how work, love, and spirituality intersect, and what happens when one looks outside the conventional or expected path for experience and guidance.  Its ambiguous ending leaves readers considering not only the large questions that concern the main character, but the consequences of his choices and what choices remain in a life that in many ways mirrors the contemporary secular culture in which healing work and personal commitments take place.


Harcourt, Brace & Co.

Place Published

New York, London




Dalya Bilu, Translator

Page Count