Wednesday, February 3, 2016

ALL I LOVE AND KNOW by Judith Frank

Daniel’s twin brother Joel and Joel’s wife Ilana have just been killed in a terrorist attack on a coffee shop in Jerusalem.  Knowing that they lived in a perilous region, Joel and Ilana had told Daniel to take their two children, Gal and Noam, back to the U.S. if anything ever happened to them.  Daniel and his partner Matt, along with Daniel’s parents, travel to Israel to identify Joel’s body and mourn with Ilana’s parents, both of whom are Holocaust survivors.  The will grants Daniel custody of the children, as expected, and both sets of grandparents are shocked and hurt.  Then everyone learns that the Israeli government may not release the children to the care of a gay couple in the U.S.  This novel has more than enough thought-provoking conflicts to go around, including some between Daniel and Matt, and the backdrop of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict makes their world seem to be a pretty volatile place.  Six-year-old Gal is a handful--bratty and difficult to manage--taking her cues from the bewildered adults around her, while Noam, not quite a year old, may have a developmental disability.  Daniel cannot come to terms with his own grief and refuses to seek help.  He struck me as petulant and sometimes impulsive as he grapples with his brother’s legacy and seeks the best situation for the children.  Matt, whom I liked much better, becomes increasingly more exasperated with Daniel, who is no longer the same man he chose as a partner 4 years ago.  Nothing seems to be easy for these two men, and after a particularly disturbing incident, this novel’s world became one that I did not want to inhabit any longer than necessary.  I found myself either wanting to slap some sense into Matt and Daniel or give them a hug.  The ending came as a relief, although I would have liked closure on a few unresolved issues.

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