Mother is a sweeping confessional novel with which many readers will empathize. Strewn with autobiographical fragments, it centers on the writer’s courageous confrontation with his mother’s death and, in its aftermath, with his own life and its meaning. But it is also an essay, a memoir, a portrait of a family, with many characters and generations, and a record of mourning that is personal yet ascetic. When the narrator is told that his mother has died, he suddenly finds himself trapped in a situation where nothing is certain anymore: not his relationships, nor his memory, not even language itself. The narrative thus includes direct appeals to his mother—but in the absence of a response, they become fantasy sequences, fluctuating between borderline surrealism and cold quasi-logic. He also experiences a sense of abandonment, and the loss of a witness to (and storyteller of) his life. And for this reason, he feels compelled to tell his own story, from the beginning. The text is constructed like a Pandora’s box that holds an entire world. Shalev tells us about his mother, an artist born in a kibbutz on the shore of Lake Tiberias, and his father, an eccentric literary scholar; his grandfather, a model of uncompromising idealism and one of the founders of the kibbutz; his grandmother, a vigorous Zionist activist, and his sister, a successful writer with whom he shares childhood memories.
Grief and a disconnect from the past dictate the branching paths of the narrative. There are lyrical digressions, disjointed fragments of personal and family history that combine to form a heartbreaking collage. From section to section, from level to level, the author descends to the depth of absolute zero—the ultimate freezing point—that must perhaps be reached before he can put the pieces together again.
The life of the mother, born on Kibbutz Kinneret, represents the
life of an entire generation. Anyone who has lost a parent can identify.
Shalev conveys very well that it is impossible to prepare oneself for
a mother’s death, that even if it is anticipated it comes as a complete
This is everyone’s truth… grasps the reader in a powerful and
Kol Israel Radio