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Waking Lions

Ayelet Gundar-Goshen
After an exhausting night shift, Dr. Eytan Green leaves the Beersheva hospital where he works, gets into his luxurious SUV and speeds down a deserted Negev road. When he hits someone, he is horrified to discover that the injured man, an Eritrean migrant, has no chance of surviving, and he flees the scene. He goes home to his wife Liat--a high-ranking police investigator--and their two sons, to carry on with his life as if nothing had happened. But his life turns upside down the next morning when a young black woman knocks at the door. She is the dead man’s widow and Eytan realizes that she knows what has happened. At first, he thinks that she wants money; in fact, she wants something quite different. In a deserted garage deep in the desert, she forces him to give free medical assistance to sick and wounded people who have infiltrated into Israel from Africa and cannot afford to go to a doctor or a hospital. Eytan’s fate is now in the hands of this beautiful, strong woman who both attracts and repels him.
Interlaced with extortion and power struggles, this is a suspenseful social and moral drama; a story of intimacy at the heart of alienation, and of erotic attraction between opposites. But it is also the story of a single choice, a specific moment that makes a man open his eyes and ask, “Who am I, actually?” Ayelet Gundar-Goshen takes an unrelenting look at the darkest corners of Israeli society and of the human soul. And the reader, whoever he or she may be, will ask, “What would I do in this situation?”



A global sensation.

Skillfully translated by Sondra Silverston, “Waking Lions” is a sophisticated and darkly ambitious novel, revealing an aspect of Israeli life rarely seen in its literature.

The New York Times

“Waking Lions” yokes a crime story to thorny ethical issues in ways reminiscent of Donna Tartt and Richard Price… It’s a rare book that can trouble your conscience while holding you in a fine state of suspense.

Wall Street Journal

Gundar-Goshen’s gripping second novel twists and turns like a thriller, and it is particularly impressive in its moral ambiguities.

The Sunday Times

A powerful thriller.

Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

Harper's Bazaar

Anyone who loves the magic of the printed word should read Waking Lions.…Gundar-Goshen has earned, and deserves, a worldwide audience, and this magnificent novel may well be the vehicle for that.


Uncommonly complex, socially aware, and ethically ambiguous… Plot is almost secondary to the political implications Gundar-Goshen explores — but what a plot it is, fuel for meditations on integrity and the layered guilt of the Israeli bourgeoisie.

New York Magazine

Vividly imagined, clever, and morally ambiguous… it's a smart and disturbing exploration of the high price of walking away, whether it be from a car accident or from one's own politically unstable homeland.


Suspenseful and morally devastating drama of guilt and survival, shame and desire from an author of whom it has been said that with this novel she invented Israeli noir... Gripping, provocative, original.


Gundar-Goshen's U.S. debut seems poised to catch fire, with the multiple narrative perspectives and dizzying reversals that connoisseurs of this genre adore.

Kirkus, Starred Review

Mesmerizing... [The author] uses the format of a thriller to study the almost unbridgeable gap between insider and outsider. The complex relationships... and the social dynamic will reverberate meaningfully with U.S. readers.

Booklist, Starred Review

A gripping, suspenseful, and morally devastating drama of guilt and survival, shame and desire from a remarkable young author on the rise.


[Written] with such velocity that you can't put it down.
The Guardian

A startlingly achieved novel, with all the page-turning appeal of a fine-honed thriller.

Jewish Quarterly

A gripping and tense thriller.

Jewish Renaissance 

Waking Lions personalises the situation providing insights into the uncomfortable mix of guilt and anger of the host country coupled with the helplessness and fatalism of the refugees.

The Bay

Ayelet Gundar-Goshen’s omniscient narrator involves us in a web of lies, guilt, evasion, seduction and moral equivocation ... This might have turned into an American-style minor thriller with predictable twists. Instead, it is a work of great subtlety which wrenches at the heart of both the family and the state, and makes for compulsive reading.

The Spectator

The events of the book’s final third more closely resemble those of a police thriller … This shift in pace is certainly exhilarating, and Gundar-Goshen has previously displayed her rare ability to combine elements from a variety of genres … We sense Gundar-Goshen’s wit trying to break through the surface; to escape the claustrophobic confines of a novel so committed to being a more restrained, serious
offering … This novel proves it’s not every day
a writer like this comes our way.
The Guardian

Waking Lions is a classy, suspenseful tale of survival where the good guys and the bad guys are harder to distinguish than you might think. The implications of Gundar-Goshen’s work extend far beyond its Israeli setting and shine a penetrating light into the dark corners of our safe lives.

The Times

Waking Lions shows us that there’s more mystery in who we think we are than in the narrative of any crime thriller
…Gundar-Goshen tells this suspenseful story with a delving and fresh style that unearths the inner lives of her characters.

Sunday Herald

It’s a literary thriller that is used as a vehicle to explore big moral issues. I loved everything about it.

Daily Mail

The author reveals the comfortable lies we tell ourselves… The plot is bold.  
Financial Times

Gundar-Goshen is a … brilliant story-teller, moving between plots and sub-plots with a gripping cast of characters. And, like the best US, Israeli and Scandinavian TV dramas, she can take a straightforward genre - the thriller - and use it to explore big moral and political questions about secrets, lies and race in modern-day Israel. 
The Jewish Chronicle


The most explosive voice of the new generation of Israeli writers.

La Repubblica

A fascinating, intense, extraordinary novel that manages to mix suspense and realism, universality, power, intimacy.

Gli Stati Generali

With a merciless lens always focused on the most hidden feelings and thanks to a rich but never redundant writing, baroque but still effective, alternating almost surprisingly the narrative voices, without giving up a subtle irony, the Israeli writer confronts us with the true meaning of life, wisely using all the registers of the narrative, from mysterious to social and psychological, from detective to sentimental… “Waking Lions” is a journey into ourselves, our thoughts, our education, to the hidden evil in all of us

Gazzetta di Mantova


Captivating, complex characters…very stirring.

Kol Israel

An ultra-topical social novel…suspenseful, stormy and magnificently constructed.


A terrific book.

IDF Radio

Enthralling and intriguing.


The author applies her dual academic qualifications ... so consistently that the reader’s breath is sometimes taken away, as if in a stand storm ... The combination of social realism, psycho-drama and thriller is so carefully devised and balanced, that there is no room for lacunae, blind spots or shallowness
Kristina Maidt-Zinke, Süddeutsche Zeitung

Profound and surprising

Nr. 2 Weltempfänger Bestenliste,


A breath-taking plot about love and lie… A perfectly written novel

ZDF “Das blaue Sofa“


An outstanding, brilliantly written story… This novel will not let you go.

NDR Kultur

The mix of social novel, psycho-drama and thriller is so carefully balanced that there is no room for blank spaces, blind spots, or shoals. (…) The novel leaves the impression of a busy desert trip, where behind every sand hill a sign awaits you, saying: ‘There are no easy answers'.

Süddeutsche Zeitung

An incredibly gripping story in which there can be no happy ending.

Those, who thought they already knew what’s good and evil, what’s right and wrong, what’s human and bestial, will be left insecure after reading Ayelet Gundar-Goshen’s Waking Lions. My favorite book of the year.
Die Presse 


Gundar-Goshen_Waking Lions
Title Waking Lions
Author’s Last Name Gundar-Goshen
Author's First Name Ayelet
Language(s) Hebrew, English, German, French, Italian, Dutch, Turkish
Genre novel
Publisher (Hebrew) Kinneret, Zmora-Bitan
Year of Publication (Hebrew) 2014
No. Pages 317 pp.
Book title - Hebrew (phonetic) Lehaʹir Arayot
Representation Represented by ITHL


English: London, Pushkin Press, 2016; pback: 2016; New York, Little, Brown, 2017; pback: 2018; Audio: Ohio, Findaway World, 2017
German: Zurich, Kein & Aber, 2015; Frankfurt/ Zürich/ Vienna, Book Club Gutenberg, 2015; pback: Zurich, Kein & Aber, 2016 
Italian: Florence, Giuntina, 2017
Turkish: Istanbul, Koton, 2016
French: Paris, Presses de la Cité, 2017 (softcover edition), 2019 (pback); Carrieres-sur-Seine, A vue d'oeil, 2017; Book Club, France Loisirs, 2017; 10/18, 2018
Dutch: Amsterdam, Atlas, 2018
Romanian: Bucharest, Nemira, 2018
Russian: Moscow, Sindbad, forthcoming
Slovak: Bratislava, Artforum, 2017
Spanish: Buenos Aires, Libros del Zorzal, 2019

Polish: Kraków, Jagiellonian University Press, 2019

Czech: Prague, Garamond, 2019

Portuguese: Sao Paulo, Todavia, 2020

Portuguese: Amadora, 2020, Elsinore, April 2021