Judith Rotem`s moving and insightful novel is not just about longing for love but also about longing for liberty, and the need to decide between the two. The protagonists are a man and a woman in mid-life, who belong to mutually alien and opposing worlds within Israeli society, worlds Rotem knows well. Elia is a psychologist, secular in outlook, aged 40 plus, married and without children; Benjamin is ultra-Orthodox, manages a successful family printing business, married and the father of six. He is beginning to have doubts that undermine his faith and finds obeying religious commandments irksome. The society he lives in, his family and in particular his wife, note the change he is going through and oppose him. Benjamin, who loves his wife passionately, seeks help from a secular psychologist. Elia, too, is captive to her love for her husband but has problems about their somewhat irregular relationship. Gideon, living in Europe, celebrates his freedom, while Elia, whose desire for him has never been satisfied, has to make do with the little he is prepared to give her: passionate, enchanting meetings once a year but not a stable family life.
In her effort to help Benjamin, Elia learns to know herself in a new, courageous way and her need for love becomes more acute. Through her, Benjamin reexamines his life and his feelings. A fine, delicate relationship emerges during the treatment process and his hand even grasps hers, but closeness crosses no red lines and their mutual attraction is not actually fulfilled. The reader follows the story within the protagonists` minds, and from what is happening to them. Following the death of a patient who kills herself because of unrequited love, Elia reaches the understanding that she must sever the ties with her husband and realize her own liberty herself. Benjamin takes the opposite path, choosing wife and children.
Craving is phenomenal! I say this not to because it has been selling like hotcakes or topping the charts for over 12 weeks, but because it is a very interesting book.
Judith Rotem’s latest book is her best! It is moving, and its language is awe-inspiring.
English translation available (for publishers only)