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May 02, 2003 - Image 74

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2003-05-02

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On The Bookshelf


In Troy



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from page 73
Although she had always been a
serious reader and knew that she took
in the world a bit differently than oth-
ers — recording her observations of
things on scraps of paper she'd pile up
in a drawer — Miller began to take
writing seriously when, living back in
Boston, the youngest of her children
started school.
She took some writing courses and
then enrolled in an MFA program at
Emerson College. There, she was
studying with students (and many
teachers) who were younger than she
was, and few had any context for her
Jewish references; that forced her to
explain things with clarity for a gener-
al audience.
The heart of this novel was her mas-
ter's thesis, and with the help of sup-
portive teachers and other writers, she
found an agent and publisher.
"I wrote this out of love and pain,"
the author says. She wants to achieve a
feeling like what she went through,
"like being punched in the stomach."
Miller, 49, grew up in a somewhat
traditional home and became
Orthodox along with her husband in
their early 20s; they're now part of the
Bostoner rebbe's community in

In writing, she is careful about facts,
although she also gives herself freedom
to make up certain things as long as
they're in the range of the possible.
Heavenly Heights is a blending of
prototypes of different settlement
communities, more a "low level" com-
munity than a place like Bet El.
"When writing about Israel, I have
to be ethically truthful, to represent
things as they are," she says.
She's pleased that several reviewers
refer to the novel as "undemonizing" the
settlers, showing their very human sides.
But she's not writing a book with a mes-
sage. "I message my children plenty," she
says, "but it's not my style as a writer."
For Miller, writing can feel like setting
jewels, taking words and fitting them in
place. She's particularly interested in the
sound of her sentences, and that's evi-
dent in their rhythmic qualities.
She has a talent for seeing the small,
telling details. Soon after Tova arrives
in Israel, she realizes that she's forgot-
ten to pack rags, "those repositories of
family history," her daughter's first
Florida T-shirt, her husband's worn
terry robe. Instead she washes her
granite counter tops with a store-
bought rag. "This is home, she
rhythmed, trying to convince herself.
This is home." ❑

from page 73
Kippur War or Israel, or is interested in
a religious young man's feelings and
thoughts when faced with being in a
war for his country's survival, will find
this a well-written and interesting work.

prizes, has produced a book of 13
short stories.
All of the subjects could be based on
real people.
In "The Paratrooper Officer's
Palestinian Mom," a businessman who
was a paratrooper and member of Israel's
secret security agency reflects on his past
as an orphan until age 36, when he dis-
covers from an uncle that his mother has
married a Palestinian and
has been living in Jordan.
"Petrov Runs Into the
Desert" relates the car
accident of a Russian
who runs from the
scene into the desert,
never to return.
"The Sin of The
Bedouin Boy" is the
tragic tale of Mahmoud,
who can endure abuse
by his father no longer
and smashes his head
with an iron rod.
The stories are complicated; the
writing is skillful. These are not easy
to read and the greater the back-
ground one has about the real Israel,
rather than the tourist's view, the more
interesting they will be. ❑



PUDDLE by Igal Sarna (Pantheon;
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In the past couple of years, an
unusually large number of books
of short stories by Israeli authors
has been published. Arafat.'s
Elephant by Jonathan Tel is a
collection of 17 short stories set
mostly in Jerusalem with superb
writing and twists reminiscent of
0. Henry. The Ascent of Eli
Israel and Other Stories by Jon
Papernick contains seven short
stories set in modern-day Israel;
they are dominated by violence
but completely realistic in a
rather eccentric way. The Bus Driver

70 1 130

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