The aching vulnerability of childhood and the ravages of exile, familiar themes in Hebrew literature, bear rewriting when the prose radiates with beauty and sensitivity as those six stories do. The children in Invisible Mending are handicapped by tragedy or by the refugee experience of their parents. They may be lonely, degraded or helpless, but they are saved by the redemptive power of art.
In the novella, A Little Coat, Paul is sent from Vienna to a children's home in Palestine when the Nazis come to power. He is renamed Shaul and taught that life is a hell to which he must adjust. After a violent asthma attack, his parents bring him home to south Tel Aviv. "Home" is one room in an apartment shared with two other families, facing a courtyard inhabited by refugees and their children. There is Vital the bully who brutalizes Paul, and Aphrodite, the witless Greek girl with a blue number tattooed on her arm. The yard is a Babel of languages - Polish, Ladino, Hungarian, German and Yiddish.
Paul's parents are worn down by the grind of earning a meager living after losing their factory in Vienna; they can only give their son a brusque, offhand kind of love. And it is Farkash, the self-effacing Hungarian hairdresser, who devises a plan to free Paul from Vital's tyranny. He also changes Paul's life by showing him the wonders of music.
Almog's stories about immigrants fallen on hard times and children bewildered by their circumstances are distinguished by an elegiac tone and a deep compassion.
Astounding, fresh, suspenseful and incomparably moving.
In her precise, lyrical voice, Ruth Almog uncovers what really goes on behind the daily activity of children who grow up in spite of catastrophe. They are like blind people: they feel everything, they hear all the sounds and smell all the odors, but they are trapped in a lack of comprehension.
Author Batya Gur
A Little Coat: English translation available (for publishers only)