About A Remarkable Kindness
• Paperback: 416 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (August 11, 2015)
Through a largely hidden ceremony . . . four friends discover the true meaning of life
It's 2006 in a seaside village in Israel, where a war is brewing. Lauren, Emily, Aviva and Rachel, four memorable women from different backgrounds, are drawn to the village. Lauren, a maternity nurse, loves her Israeli doctor husband but struggles to make a home for herself in a foreign land thousands of miles away from her beloved Boston. Seeking a fresh start after a divorce, her vivacious friend Emily follows. Strong, sensuous Aviva, brought to Israel years earlier by intelligence work, has raised a family and now lost a son. And Rachel, a beautiful, idealistic college graduate from Wyoming, arrives with her hopeful dreams.
The women forge a friendship that sustains them as they come to terms with love and loss, and the outbreak of war. Their intimate bond is strengthened by their participation in a traditional ritual that closes the circle of life. As their lives are slowly transformed, each finds unexpected strength and resilience.
Brimming with wisdom, rich in meaningful insights, A Remarkable Kindness is a moving testament to women's friendship, illuminating a mostly unknown ritual that underscores what it means to truly be alive.
One of the things I most enjoyed about this novel was learning about modern life in Israel. The individual stories of each of the women, what brought them to live in Israel in the first place, how their lives were different and sometimes more difficult because of their choice - all this was enlightening to me. It made me feel a bit provincial, actually, immersed here in my safe American culture for all of my life. Oddly enough, it never occurred to me than people would choose to live in Israel if they weren’t born there.
I was also extremely moved by the ritual associated with burial circles, or hevra kadisha -the ceremonial preparation of the dead in which the four main characters volunteer. “It was a solemn, sacred ritual, the last stop before a woman’s final journey. The women washed the dead, dressed them in traditional burial shrouds, and recited the prayers.” This difficult act bears great meaning for the lives of each of the book’s characters, and is a poignant reminder of the sacredness of death.
Of the four characters in the book, Aviva seemed to me the most interesting and fully developed. She was closer to my age and experience, and seemed to have an emotional depth the other characters lacked.
Overall, A Remarkable Kindness was an interesting, enlightening glimpse into women’s lives in a very different, sometimes dangerous culture.
About Diana Bletter
Diana Bletter is a writer whose work has appeared in a wide variety of publications, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Commentary. Her first book, The Invisible Thread: A Portrait of Jewish American Women, with photographs by Lori Grinker, was shortlisted for a National Jewish Book Award. In 1991, she moved from New York to a seaside village in northern Israel where she lives with her husband and children, and volunteers in a burial circle.