Pain : A Novel

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      “Zeruya Shalev is one of my favorite contemporary writers, her work always spiky and original, and Pain is a searing book, a wild and ravenous story of family entanglement and impossible yearning.” —Lauren Groff, author of Florida and Fates and FuriesA powerful, astute novel that exposes how old passions can return, testing our capacity to make choices about what is most essential in life.Ten years after she was seriously injured in a terrorist attack, the pain comes back to torment Iris. But that is not all: Eitan, the love of her youth, also comes back into her life. Though their relationship ended many years ago, she was more deeply wounded when he left her than by the suicide bomber who blew himself up next to her.Iris's marriage is stagnant. Her two children have grown up and are almost independent; she herself has become a dedicated, successful school principal. Now, after years without passion and joy, Eitan brings them back into her life. But she must concoct all sorts of lies to conceal her affair from her family, and the lies become more and more complicated.Is this an impossible predicament, or on the contrary a scintillating revelation of the many ways life's twists and turns can bring us to a place we would never have expected to be?
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Booklist Reviews 2019 October #2

After her oblivious husband asks, "Remember today's date?" physical pain and emotionally wrenching retrospection swamp Iris, a successful school principal. Exactly ten years earlier she survived a suicide bombing in Jerusalem, then endured surgeries that had "sewn, screwed and implanted" her together again. On this anniversary, excruciating pain returns. Visiting a pain specialist, she encounters her first love, the man who abandoned her at 17, a shock that had put her into a near-coma for weeks. She has been on hold for him in her heart for almost three decades. Fevered and laced with painkillers, Iris experiences intimate reconnections with Eitan that verge on fantasy. She wrestles with the pointlessness of life, the ambivalence she feels toward her children and husband, and the allure of a second chance at life with PAIN, the name that appears when her returned lover texts or calls. Weaving a complex meditation on the intricate ripples of cause and effect in our lives, Israeli author Shalev (The Remains of Love, 2013) explores how each of us is both wounded and wounding. Copyright 2019 Booklist Reviews.

LJ Reviews 2019 October

Injured in a terrorist bombing ten years earlier, Iris, a school principal living in Jerusalem, finds her chronic pain returning just as she's feeling alienated from her family. Her marriage has grown stale, her daughter, Alma, has moved to Tel Aviv, and her son will soon be inducted into the army. A search for relief from her pain leads her to a chance meeting with her first love, Eitan, and she rushes headlong into an affair. When Alma's problems encroach on her idyllic romance, can Iris remain true to her revived younger self and still help her daughter and perhaps heal her family? Anyone picking up a book titled Pain should expect a fair amount of anguish, and the book has little joy or levity. Even the headiness of the affair is shadowed by Iris's despair over her family troubles and regrets over losing the years she could have had with Eitan if they hadn't parted when they were young. VERDICT Essentially a midlife crisis novel with a lot of meditation over choice and chance and how they impact what follows, this story by Shalev (The Remains of Love) effectively depicts contemporary Israeli life but is a bit of a downer.—Christine DeZelar-Tiedman, Univ. of Minnesota Libs., Minneapolis

Copyright 2019 Library Journal.

PW Reviews 2019 September #5

Shalev's exhausting fifth novel (after Love Life) rides "waves of pain... drawing the map" of the lives of Iris, survivor of a Jerusalem bomb attack, and her damaged family. Confronting the return of pain from her old injuries, which coincides with the return of her childhood sweetheart Eitan, Iris, a dedicated school principal, must decide whether the life she has built since Eitan left her decades earlier is worth salvaging. Her husband, Mickie, who is obsessed with online chess, annoys her. Her son, Omer, though a handful as a child, no longer needs her. And her daughter, Alma, apparently caught up in the orbit of an exploitative guru, has moved to Tel Aviv. Charting Iris's foray into infidelity and chronicling the increasing danger of Alma's situation, the author heaps her characters' grievances onto a pyre of discontent, until the story collapses into a tedious litany of physical, mental, and emotional suffering. Too earnest in her descriptions of love rediscovered, and drowning Iris in torment, Shalev sabotages her sometimes fine writing by long-winded, explanatory preaching. A pristine observation—"She was wrong, those weren't nuts in her mouth, they were ice cubes"—is marred, for instance, by the paragraph of explanation that follows, exemplifying an overall fault of the book. This relentless exposé of affliction in all its iterations is undone by its lack of trust in its readers. (Nov.)

Copyright 2019 Publishers Weekly.