To the End of the Land

by David Grossman

Other authorsJessica Cohen
Book, 2010

Barcode

123460487

Call number

FIC GRO

Collection

Publication

New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 2010

Description

Ora, a middle-aged Israeli mother, is on the verge of celebrating her son Ofer's release from army service when he returns to the front for a major offensive. she sets out for a hike in the Galilee, leaving no forwarding information for the "notifiers" who might darken her door with the worst possible news. Recently estranged from her husband, Ilan, she drags along their former best friend and her former lover Avram. Avram served in the army alongside Ilan when they were young. Avram was sent into Egypt and the Yom Kippur War, where he was brutally tortured as POW. In the aftermath, a virtual hermit, he refused to keep in touch with the family and has never met the boy. Ora supplies the whole story of her motherhood, a retelling that keeps Ofer very much alive and opens Avram to human bonds undreamed of in his broken world.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member Litfan
It's difficult for me to write this review because I'm not sure how to write it in a way that will convey the profound and moving experience that is Grossman's novel. It is sprawling; a thoughtful, heartrending and tragically personal rendering of lives torn apart by war.

This is not a fast-paced,
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plot-driven novel. Reading it is like taking a very slow drive through the country, where the goal is not the destination but the absorption of your surroundings. There is a great deal of stream-of- consciousness writing that moves between present-day hike, the youth of Ora, Ilan and Avram, and the family years of Ora and Ilan.

Overarching all the characters' lives is the shadow of war and conflict. Ora is the daughter of a Holocaust survivor, the wife of a former soldier, and the mother of a son who is going into conflict. Ora decides to hike the Galilee, a hike that she had planned to do with her son, in a spurt of magical thinking: if she's not home to receive the news that her son has died in battle, then he can't die. She takes along Avram, her former lover, who has his own battle scars. Her past and present are marred by war. In one touchingly sad scene Ora recalls a day on which she compulsively rode the bus back and forth, every day for weeks, apparently both in spite of and because of the likelihood of falling victim to a terrorist attack. She describes walking through the city and looking at everyone as though they could be a suicide bomber, then realizing they are looking at her the same way. It is impossible for the reader not to imagine themselves and their loved ones in such a city, where violence never sleeps.

Grossman also explores the complex relationship between the opposing sides of a conflict. Ora's driver is Sami, an Arab, and she is both saddened and infuriated by the distance that the current conflict imposes in their relationship. During a particularly graphic reminiscence of a war scene, one of the characters recalls the moment when he realizes that the "enemies" are humans just like him, in a different uniform. Over and over the age-old question is raised: why must we fight like this, and when does it stop?

This novel resonated with me because I've been through a loved one's deployment. Ora's feelings and actions, her determination to keep talking about Ofer in order to keep him alive, seem like nonsense at times, but in the crazymaking atmosphere of living constantly with a loved one being in harm's way, they make perfect sense. Sadly, the author has lived the truth about which he writes: his own son was killed in conflict in Lebanon.

This was a profound, deep, moving novel to read. It has stood out among the best books I've read this year, and it has lingered with me long after I finished it. Very highly recommended.
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LibraryThing member giladgal
This should win David Grossman the Nobel prize for literature that he deserved even before this book. It is hard for anyone outside a very narrow part of the Israeli society to understand how exact and true this book is, which is to me always the sign of a true work of art: when you feel it is so
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intimately talking about you that you cannot imagine that anyone else can understand it.

A true masterpiece!
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LibraryThing member Eliz12
I could use a million words to describe this book: brilliant, exhausting, compelling, tedious, moving, confusing, tender, unforgettable, and still not know where to start.
It is the story of one woman, Ora, and how she spends her days after her son, Ofer, goes into the Israeli Army. She brings an
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old friend, Avram, on a journey that Ofer was supposed to have taken with her, and Ora and Avram talk about everything from their own friendship to Ora's marriage to Ofer, and much more.
For the most part I loved this book, because Grossman's language is like a stream, moving along, keeping you with him through both beautiful and dark times. It is one of the rare works of fiction I've read that really provides an opportunity to see what war does to the human soul - not the person in battle, but everyone else.
This is not easy reading, but at the same time I found myself immersed in the characters' lives and thought about them at length when I was away from the book.
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LibraryThing member SamSattler
Seldom has a book left me with such conflicting opinions of its quality as has David Grossman's "To the End of the Land." The basic premise of the book is a relatively simple one: an Israeli woman whose son volunteers to take part in a major military operation decides to disappear until it is all
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over. Ora, the young soldier's mother, has convinced herself that if she cannot be found for a notification of his death, he will remain safe. So, rather than going on the extended hike she had planned to take with her son, Ora makes the same walk with the boy's father.

At almost 600 pages, "To the End of the Land" is long enough for the reader to change his opinion of the book more than once, and that is exactly what happened to me. First, I was almost undone by the set-up to the book's main plot, some 120 pages or so during which not much seemed to be happening and I was finding it difficult to like, or even identify with, any of the book's characters. Second, came the heart of the book, during which Ora and Avram (the estranged father of her soldier son) walked for miles in isolated sections of northern Israel while Ora told Avram about the things he missed by never knowing his son. These approximately 450 pages, as the two main characters chat about their past and the son they have in common, make for compelling reading. Third, comes the book's ending, one I found to be particularly unsatisfying considering the number of pages it took me to get there.

Grossman does such a superb job developing his characters that even the secondary ones come to life as the complicated relationships take shape. The story centers on a love triangle that has lasted for decades after the chance hospital meeting of Ora and the two young men who fall in love with her there, Avram and Ilan. Theirs is such a tangled relationship that Ora, although she marries Ilan, has sons by both men and it often seems that Ilan is more loyal to Avram than he is to her. At this late stage in the relationship, Avram has had, by far, the toughest life of the three, and it is a joy to watch as Ora tenderly gives him new life during their long walk by feeding him just the right details and stories about the son he never knew.

This is not a perfect novel (as if there is such a thing) but I will remember it for a long time - not so much for its plotline, but because it gave me a feel for what it is like to live in a country where the threat of sudden death is always around. It is the burden of Israel's young people to protect their country from those so determined to destroy it, but the parents who must live with the terror of seeing their children march to war so regularly pay a high price of their own. I come away from "To the End of the Land" with an increased respect for Israel and her people and a belief that this is an important novel.

Rated at: 3.5
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LibraryThing member RealLifeReading
“The general, almost eternal conflict from which she had disconnected herself years ago kept on making its dark circles, here a terrorist attack, there a targeted assassination, hurdles that the soul leaped over with an expressionless face and without ever looking back.”

I open with this quote
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and it is a bleak one. There is that spectre of war, of terrorism, that haunts this book. Ora is the mother of Ofer and Adam, and Ofer has just volunteered to rejoin the Israeli army’s offensive against the Palestinians. In Israel, military service is mandatory. And bombs and terrorism are not just what you read in the papers but something that happens on the bus that you just passed, on the street that you take to work everyday. Ora has had enough, and instead of waiting around for the notifiers to turn up at her door to deliver their bad news, she takes off on her hike, a hike she and Ofer had planned to take together before he re-enlisted. Her companion is Avram – her friend, and her husband’s best friend (it’s a love triangle, sweet, sad but true). She is convinced that if no one is there to receive the notification, Ofer will survive.

“All those nights she has spent waiting for them, ever since Adam enlisted and through all his stints in the Territories, and then for the three years of Ofer’s service. All those times she has walked to the door when the bell rings and told herself, This is it. But that door will remain shut a day from now, ,and two, and in a week or so, and that notification will never be given, because notifications always take two, Ora thinks – one to give and one to receive – and there will be no one to receive this notice, and so it will not be delivered, and this is the thing that is suddenly illuminated in her with a light that grows brighter by the minute, with needle-sharp flashes of furious cheer, now that the house is closed up and locked behind her and the phone inside is ringing incessantly, and she herself is pacing the sidewalk, waiting for Sami.”

It isn’t the most exciting of books, I have to admit. A lot of it involves Ora and Avram walking and talking (Ora does most of the talking). But oh, the things they talk about. About Ofer, about Adam, with such love, with such feeling. On their journey, Ora begins to write down her memories, her emotions, an outpouring of love for her children. Time is rather fluid in this book, as Ora tells Avram about her life, her family. And he, eventually, tells her about his.

Grossman began writing this book before his two sons enlisted in the military. His younger son Uri was killed in 2006, and the eulogy was published in newspapers. In the book’s epilogue, Grossman writes that “I had the feeling – or rather, a wish – that the book I was writing would protect him”. It is impossible to read To The End of the Land without knowing this. I know different readers will get different things out of this book, but for me, it was very much about the realities of being a parent. A roller-coaster ride of ups and downs. And sending your son off to war, is something I cannot imagine. Singapore, like Israel, has mandatory ‘National Service’, but is in a less precarious position than Israel, so while there is ‘preparedness’ in the form of military service for 2 years for men and then being ‘operationally ready’ reservists after (till about 40 I think?), there is far less likelihood of being called up to defend (or offend).

In an interview with Paris Review, Grossman said: “When I’m writing a book that takes years to complete, I emerge from the last page totally different from who I was on page one. I learn constantly from my books. This is why it takes me so many years to write a novel, because I do not really understand what I write and why I write it. Only later do I understand what it wants to tell me. I’m not trying to mystify it—in a practical way, I think it is only through writing that I allow myself to experience things I would not be courageous enough for in real life.”

Grossman has written a truly unforgettable book. It grabbed me by the heart and wouldn’t let me go. It haunted me at night and I dreamt of hiking and notebooks. It made me seek out a blank notebook and write down my thoughts. It moved me, but it didn’t make me cry. But it is a book that has stayed with me, and I’ve sat on this review for days and days now, and it’s about time I hit that “publish” button before I hesitate again, wondering if I am doing justice to this book.

So if you aren’t quite convinced by my words, perhaps Grossman’s words (and his translator’s) will help. There were so many passages in To the End of the Land that I copied, and this might just be one of my favourites. It involves food and made my mouth water when I read it, and again when I typed it out. And so I had to go pick up some tomatoes and cilantro and chickpeas to make my own version of a couscous salad. Don’t say I didn’t warn you…

“As befitting the adversary she faces, she plunges into battle with her winning combination: Ariela’s Chinese chicken strips with vegetables, Ariela’s mother-in-law’s Persian rice with raisins and pine nuts, her own variation on her mother’s sweet eggplant with garlic and tomatoes, and mushroom and onion pies. If she only had a proper oven in this house she could make at least one more pie, but Ofer would be licking his fingers anyway. She moves between the oven and the stove top with unexpected gaiety, and for the first time since Ilan left, since they locked up their house in Ein Karem and dispersed to separate rental houses, she feels a sense of affection and belonging toward a kitchen, toward the whole idea of a kitchen, even this old-fashioned, grubby kitchen, which now approaches her tenatively and rubs up against her with its damp snouts of serving spoons and ladles. Piled on the table behind her are covered bowls of eggplant salad, cabbage salad, and a large, colourful chopped vegetable salad, into which she snuck slices of apple and mango, which Ofer may or may not notice, if he even gets to eat this meal. Another bowl contains her version of tabbouleh, which Ofer thinks is to die for – that is to say, which he really, really likes, she corrects herself quickly for the record.”

And then there is this one which just made so much sense to me, because I did feel that way.

“Deep in her heart she had hoped that when the baby was born she would immediately know everything she needed to know. That the baby would infuse her with a primal, natural and unimpeachable knowledge. Now she realised how much she had looked forward to that throughout the pregnancy, almost as much as to the baby itself – to the acuteness of knowing the right thing to do, which she had lost completely in recent years, since Avram’s tragedy.”

I have to thank the BBC World Book Club podcast (and in turn, Buried in Print whose link I first clicked to get to said book club – wee reader and I like to listen to it while having breakfast, ok maybe it’s just me who likes it) for making me borrow this book. To the End of the Land had been on my TBR list for a while but listening to David Grossman talk about his book, his writing, his life, on the podcast made me finally go pick it up and I am just so glad I did. Here’s to more from David Grossman, and the BBC World Book Club!
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LibraryThing member gypsysmom
Even though this book took me almost two weeks to read I really didn't want it to end. I was so caught up in the story and so fearful of what the ending might be that I really took my time with this book.

Ora met Avram and Ilan when the three of them were in hospital with some mysterious contagious
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illness. They were practically the same age and Avram and Ilan actually went to the same school together. After they were released from hospital, Avram wrote to Ora every day and told her he was in love with her. As the fates would have it though, Ora was in love with Ilan and Ilan wasn't really aware that she existed. Then the book jumps to the present day and we learn that Ora and Ilan did become a couple and had two boys. Recently, Ilan and Ora separated and the older son moved in with Ilan. We don't learn until close to the end of the book what caused the breakup but there are hints. The younger son was supposed to be finished his three year duty in the Israeli army but when war was declared he reapplied. Ora and he were supposed to be hiking in Galilee and Ora decided she could not just wait at home for a notice that he had been killed. She decides to go hiking anyway. When Avram contacts her she decides to take him along. That's when we learn that Avram is the son's natural father.

Avram is in pretty bad shape. He's addicted to sleeping pills and perhaps other drugs. His apartment is a mess and so is he. For the first few days it seems like he can hardly put one foot in front of another. But Ora coaxes, cajoles and sometimes scolds him. Then she starts telling him little things about their son whom Avram has never met. Ora feels like she can save her son from harm if she can make Avram care about him.

Their trek is a metaphor for the life that they have shared. Sometimes they can't see what is in front of them and sometimes they have a bird's eye view. Sometimes they encounter garbage; at other times they are walking through a paradise. Always there are reminders of the wars that have been fought and the soldiers that have died. As Ora and Avram walk along they reveal things about themselves and we learn what happened to them during the Yom Kippur War and after.

There were some parts that I'm not sure why they were included. For instance, Ora's fatalistic journeys around Jerusalem by bus at a time when bombings were included frequently. I don't understand what her motivation was and I don't really think it added to the story.

But, in all, it was a beautiful written story. It didn't clarify the Palestine/Israel situation for me but it did give a little glimpse into what life has been like for the Israeli Jews.
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LibraryThing member Rosareads
This amazing novel embraces two, no, three difficult themes: life in Israel confronted by the constant threat of the painful Middle East Conflict, a family's painful efforts at survival facing that threat, and a love story - not just of a man and a woman, but of parents and children and close
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friendships. The writing is intense, sometimes poetic, broad, all encompassing. To the End of the Land is a major accomplishment.
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LibraryThing member KimLarae
Gorgeous writing, seriously serious. I did get a little sick of Ora by the end, however.
LibraryThing member tobiejonzarelli
Not an easy to read book, but one definitely worth reading, I loved this book.
Here is what Random House had to say about it,
"From one of Israel’s most acclaimed writers comes a novel of extraordinary power about family life—the greatest human drama—and the cost of war.
Ora, a middle-aged
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Israeli mother, is on the verge of celebrating her son Ofer’s release from army service when he returns to the front for a major offensive. In a fit of preemptive grief and magical thinking, she sets out for a hike in the Galilee, leaving no forwarding information for the “notifiers” who might darken her door with the worst possible news. Recently estranged from her husband, Ilan, she drags along an unlikely companion: their former best friend and her former lover Avram, once a brilliant artistic spirit. Avram served in the army alongside Ilan when they were young, but their lives were forever changed one weekend when the two jokingly had Ora draw lots to see which of them would get the few days’ leave being offered by their commander—a chance act that sent Avram into Egpyt and the Yom Kippur War, where he was brutally tortured as POW. In the aftermath, a virtual hermit, he refused to keep in touch with the family and has never met the boy. Now, as Ora and Avram sleep out in the hills, ford rivers, and cross valleys, avoiding all news from the front, she gives him the gift of Ofer, word by word; she supplies the whole story of her motherhood, a retelling that keeps Ofer very much alive for Ora and for the reader, and opens Avram to human bonds undreamed of in his broken world. Their walk has a “war and peace” rhythm, as their conversation places the most hideous trials of war next to the joys and anguish of raising children. Never have we seen so clearly the reality and surreality of daily life in Israel, the currents of ambivalence about war within one household, and the burdens that fall on each generation anew.
Grossman’s rich imagining of a family in love and crisis makes for one of the great antiwar novels of our time."
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LibraryThing member fyi715
The hard parts of this book were the beginning and end - I felt like the story took a while to develop and I thought the ending was tough to follow. However the majority of the book was a great read. The character development of Ora and her relationship with Avram made for an excellent story. As
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well, I was sucked into the development and well being of O'fer, her son off to serve in the army.
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LibraryThing member AramisSciant
A poignant anti-war book from one of Israel's most prominent writers (also a pillar of the intellectual Left). I found it painfully honest about what Israelis give up as a society and how much the current situation is hurting both sides of the conflict. His grief for his fallen son is also very
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very palpable when he explores the theme of fatherhood.
Universal themes about humanity, family ties, human relations will readily accessible to any reader; other parts, will be immediately deciphered by Israelis but may be lost in translation. I liked it even though it saddened me a lot and made me long for the landscapes of Northern Israel.
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LibraryThing member lxydis
One of the best books I've ever read. Harrowing, compelling, moving, brilliant.
LibraryThing member wendytrim
Story told by Ora, a middle-aged Israeli mother. Her son Ofer is voluntarily returns to the front for a major offensive and she is beside herself. Her husband has just left her and she chooses her best friend, and former lover to join her on a hike through Israel. This was such a fascinating read
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and I couldn't put it down.
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LibraryThing member suesbooks
I was very involved with this book and cared about the characters deeply. The writing was amazing, and Grossman was able to share so much information, much of it mundane, and present it with much interest. I do feel the book was about 100 pages too long, and I tired of Ora and found her behavior a
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little too strange. It was still a worth read, and one of my favorite David Grossman books.
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LibraryThing member eas
I am sorry not to have read the reviews below before dumping this book as being impossible to read. I was totally at a loss to understand where Davide Grossman was heading at the beginning - all so obscure and difficult - so did not press on.

Perhaps, when I have more time to wade through the
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initial sea of mystery and confusion, I will take it up again.
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LibraryThing member reluctantm
I don't if I enjoyed this novel, but I don't think that's the point. I don't think this is a novel that's meant to be enjoyed. It's more that we as readers are there to bear witness to the tragedy of these characters' lives because this entire novel is populated by people who are lost or have been
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lost or are in the process of being lost all simultaneously. Lots of times I just wanted to slap the main character, Ora, for being so silly and other times I just wanted to cry with her because she's so unable to be the person that the novel requires her to be. I don't know. I'm not making that much sense, but I read the novel and I bore witness and I think that was the point.
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LibraryThing member anitatally
This is one of the most powerful books I have ever read. The writing is incredible - descriptive, complex, insightful. The characters are so real to me, I hate parting from them. And if you have a son in military service, I expect that this book will strike a chord in you that few books have. It is
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truly a work of art.
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LibraryThing member chrissie3
I absolutely LOVE this book. Add some explosion claps.

I have read about half. THIS is a love story. What kind of love? Love for your child, your first and your second. Love for your partner in life. Husband or someone else, doesn't matter. There is a really weird triangle love relationship, but
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the further and further I go into the book the more it all makes sense. And by having a triangle relationship you can see, feel and experience again for yourself all the different emotions tied with love.

Do you remember breastfeeding? Do you remember how you looked at the newborn right after delivery? Do you remember the first step and words and funny things your kids have done? They will not be exactly the same as those mentioned in this book but there has to be something wrong with you if you don't recall your own memories and feelings. How did a man write this? Sorry if I am prejudiced....

Superb writing! One minute you see a glint of light on a stone, marvel at a simile, are trying to understand your own philosophical approach or remembering your own experiences, and in the next sentence you are abruptly brought back to earth with a snide remark. Avram has one of his rare smiles, and Ora says, "Be careful it might stick." Avram is short, and Ora refers to his "peanut stature". I love the quick changes. You are continually snapped back to real life. Marvelous dialogs.

I love the philosophical content. I love the writing. Damn, how many authors can capture what "love" is really about? All different kinds of love. Few authors can capture the inherent differences between how men and women think.

WHY do other reviewers dislike Ora? Maybe I would not do what she does, because I simply do not have the courage, but I completely understand her. I admire her ability to do what she does. It is not at all as stupid as others say.

Having now finished the book I still feel that it was fantastic, from start to finish. There was only one brief section, when Avram is stuck in a bunker all by himself and is soon to be taken POW, when the philosophizing is laid on too thick. The latter half brings home with a punch how it has been to be an Israeli. The events carry the reader from the Six-Day War of 1967, through the Yom Kippur War of 1973 through to the suicide bombings that continue still today. How do these people look at life today? You understand that too by reading this book.

I grew to very much appreciate Arthur Morey's narration of this excellent book, although it took me a while.

This is the best book of fiction I have read this year! Its themes are love, family relationships and life in Israel. Fiction? The author knows what he is talking about. "Grossman began writing the novel in May 2003 when his oldest son Yonatan was serving in the Israeli Defense Forces and the book was largely complete by August 2006 when his younger son Uri was killed in the Second Lebanon War." (Wikipedia).
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LibraryThing member eembooks
While this is far from an easy read it still is a fascinating book with plenty of strong defiant men; two sons, a husband, former lover and an Arab cab driver. It’s the tightly woven story of Ora exerting control of her day to day activities and willing for life to go as she believes it should.
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Ora even hopes to control the future by escaping to far reaches of the land so unpleasant news will never be known. As she tells us her story I wouldn’t exactly call Ora a really feminine character and sometimes you just want to knock her up the side of the head and say "get a life". Large segments of magical realism near the beginning made it difficult to grasp the story as I was first started reading the book.
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LibraryThing member Kristelh
This is the second book by the author for me. It is about family, parenting, and having sons that go into the military and the fear for their safety. In this book, the mother is so fearful that she cannot tolerate being home in case they come to deliver the news of her son’s death. She goes on an
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extended hike and during this walk, the back story of how she became pregnant, how she raised her children, and how she has dealt with the stress is brought out either in talking with her son’s father or in her writing of a journal in which she hopes to capture the history of her child/children.
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LibraryThing member Ccyynn
I am Ora. Cautiously... I want to say that some of us, old children of heartbreak, know war, even if we have never seen a gun. I say "cautiously", because I like to be careful of "what I wish for", and I insist on respecting the war torn.

Magical thinking is a part of our lives. We make bargains,
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but not necessarily with "an exalted God" we don't believe in. Instead, like Ora, we make do "with little gods, day-to-day icons, and small miracles: If she gets three lights in a row, if she has time to bring in the laundry before it rains..." If she is not there to open the door––if she does not get bad news, there will be no bad news. Can we save our lives with the stories we tell ourselves? Will our memories stop time? Not any more than time will stop our memories from changing.

This book is about magical thinking and war. It has never been so clear to me, how they go hand in hand, these two states of being. Has there ever been a war (any kind of war) without magical thinking all around it, in it, before it, after it?

Ora's torment is a torment of the mothers of war. Her voice, as sung by David Grossman, lives inside me, and I had a hard time telling the difference between her thoughts and mine. I am not at war, so safe and secure is my life. But, to care, to see, to absorb this world, the blood and sorrow and life and words, the beginnings and endings, to be alive and to die, we are at battle with the little things that torment us, or the big things that end up killing us.

Books: literature brings me so close to my own wars.

Can we stymie loss with our distractions? Or, by turning our faces away from it, do we bring it closer? And, what about love? In the end, in the beginning, what about love? Is there room for love in war, in memory, in pain, in sorrow, in death?

This book took me a long time to read. It is intense, it stretched my heart into long strips of rubber. And it will take some time for them to bounce back, to reassemble into the "shape" of a heart.

Beautiful, but more than beautiful, reading this book for me was like holding David Grossman's heart in my hands. I want to thank him with all of mine for the privilege.
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LibraryThing member peptastic
To the End of the Land is about an Israeli mother Ora, whose son has volunteered to extend his duty in the IDF. They had planned on hiking around the Gailee together but he bails on her. She decides to go with the boy's father, in a bargain with herself, that if she shares her son's memory with him
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he'll be kept alive.
She believes if she isn't there to here he's been killed, he won't be.

This book is like getting a punch in the gut. I have a feeling the answer to relationships, family or romantic, lies somewhere deep within the pages of this book. The power of the mind isn't in magical thinking to prevent death [but who hasn't made a bargain in their mind for something they really don't want to happen] but in destroying relationships or deceiving ourselves.

The underlining current I keep coming back to is where Avram gave up on himself and forced Ilan to take all the things he couldn't have for himself, because he didn't think he deserved them. He did himself a huge disservice, but an even bigger one to Ora. The letters he wrote to Ora, that she didn't love him, that she needed an Alpha male, even telling her that Ilan would not like someone who loved him that much he didn't know was so insulting to Ora. She needed gentleness in her life.

Ora did the same thing but with her family. She didn't think she was smart enough for the men in her life. People can poison their own capacity or potentional with doubt and insecurities. One girl did leave Avram because he was "too emotional". Ora had to remind herself not to drown others and hold back.

The scene that will stick with me forever is the memory of hiding in her mother's wardrobe and discovering her mother beats herself. Ora's mother was her harshest critic, which Ora does to herself as well. I fretted the entire book wondering why her family hated her that much. She was a bit smothering, but then why was she an unnatural mother? She loved them all too much to be unnatural. She blamed herself for things that were beyond her control.

I felt this book captured perfectly the disappointments families bring on each other and the cycle of putting ones hopes on another person.
Who doesn't look back and realise where they went wrong or that moment of not being unconditional. Is it possible not to put expectations on to your loved ones? While it was Ilan who harshly judged the children growing up with labels, silently Ora was doing the same thing, but with her high expectations. She was able to inspire Ilan with the possibilities rather than rigid "This is how it will be", but was let down by herself in the end. Her mother had such low standards for her doing so was a promise Ora made to herself in the closet. That she'd have the perfect family. Ofer became disillusioned with her very early on when he discovered she ate meat and he kicked her. Everyone in her life seemed to be punishing her or blaming her for something. Ora was absolutely not to only guilty party of needing, wanting or expecting something out of another person. Avram imagined their family what he desired out of them.
Yes, if the standard had been one-sided they would not have turned their backs on her so. The way only Ilan could cut someone out of his life with the divorce, Ofer reenlisting, or Adam refusing to speak to her. Ora alone didn't bring these high expectations on him.

The problem was she brought up things they all agreed not to discuss, because she was the one who forgot the way things were for that society to function.

Ora is a difficult character to read, due to her low self-esteem and blindness to important events going on around her. You have to read between the lines and gather the pieces of the stories she shares with Avram.

How did Ofer avoid the politics with the rampant propaganda and culture? I don't think he did despite refusal to read the newspapers. Politics permeate every aspect of a country that will always be at war, to be a citizen you must kill.
In his own way, he shared that with Ora. She was blind to so much going on around her. Grossman tells us the Ofer we see through Ora's eyes isn't the entire picture. He had an entire life with his brother she never saw. Where did he become so afraid of Arabs as a kid he slept with a monkey hammer? He was indoctrinated by living in the society they did. You can't shield your kid and keep them innocent living in an apartheid society that treats people like cattle or criminal because of their religion or skin. You will be degraded by participating in that in your very core.
He was asking the wrong questions, when he had her shown him a map of the countries that hated them. He was just a kid then. When did Ofer shut his eyes and never come back around to ask why they will always be at war. He knew they would and told her to leave if he died.
Was it after he chose to reenlist?

It was not possible for Ofer to remain gentle. The episode with raising him to eat meat told us what was coming, but this time didn't fight against it like she wanted him to.
She herself, who didn't speak up for the people so viciously treated by their government, but forgot that it was even happening. We knew what kind of person Ora was by how she treated Sami. Ofer sensed the hypocrisy and demanded of her why she had him drive him to war.

She made a huge mistake taking him to see weapons to calm him down but she never connects this to the pro-military son he becomes. How much of an impact or control can you honestly have on your kids values if you actively go along with this lifestyle? How much was her fault for living where they live [shared crimes from their entire society] and not saying the right things at the right time. Ilan blamed her for his becoming a vegetarian, but it was his return to eating meat that hurt Ora. Ora had the half-foot in and half-foot out. The pleas for him not to kill anyone for his own sake, but disgust for anyone actively engaging in the anti-war demonstrations. She thought this a betrayal of the soldiers, which is the biggest weapon used in American politics to stifle dissent. "Support the troops = allow us to murder millions of innocent people around the world in a never-ending war."

She lived a really deluded life just to live. Most Americans do this so it wasn't a stretch to believe. It was revealed that the war on terror is designed never to end. After all, supposedly Germany didn't know about the concentration camps. So she put it out of her mind that Sami was Arab, what she went along with until the man in the meat locker died. Then she had to face up to what she signed her son up to do by having him.
She still loves him throughout everything, despite their rejection of her, their ridicule, she loves her family. She just had to accept how everyone really was. For Adam, she realised why he had those tics with the water or rhyming words. She had Ofer on a pedestal, hoped he'd save them all perhaps like he saved Adam as a boy, when his parents could not. He saved her marriage the first time around.

Ora's journey through the Galilee opened her eyes to a lifetime of living with her eyes shut. For her son she had to accept all the sides of his being. What was sad is she never does come to terms with herself. There is no coming to terms with what it means to be human, eating meat, killing and torturing people in war, all of that brutality.
You can not control what others do, how they will feel.
Like in life, she almost comes to the answers on her journey but not quite.
We got the whole package with what it means to love someone else, when you are understood and the joy that comes with it, or the sad and loneliness when those who should understand you don't.
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LibraryThing member susiesharp
This book was tough for me the story felt like it had ADD, I had a hard time with the cadence or flow of the text it was like she spoke and thought so fast it was hard to keep up especially as her thoughts raced from one thing to the next. I also didn’t really like these people much Ora was just
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a bit too odd for me, if not a bit crazy. I can see how some people may like this book the writing is beautiful but I felt like I was slogging through it most of the time and just wanted it to be over.

Arthur Morey was not the right choice for the narration of this book, this should have had a female narrator and I think Shohreh Aghdashloo would have been perfect. It was off-putting to have a man talking about her son suckling on her teet, also he has a very strong (in my mind) New York/New England accent and this book screamed for a Israeli/middle eastern accent and I am just guessing here but I doubt his pronunciations were correct. (and if they were correct they sounded bad without an accent). I will say I would listen to Morey again but not on a book where he is playing an Israeli woman. This was just plain bad casting and I think I would have enjoyed this book more with a different narrator. Although I did try to give up the audio and read the book but I couldn’t find the cadence of Ora’s racing mind.

I only finished this book because it was a bookclub book I would have DNF’d if it hadn’t been but I ended up reading some of it in print ,listening to some on audio and skimming some, and at the end a huge sigh of thank god that’s over!

Above are my thoughts on the book but this was a bookclub book that made for a great discussion and others in the bookclub loved this book, so even though this isn’t a favorite I would recommend it for bookclubs.

2 ½ Stars
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LibraryThing member gayla.bassham
Beautifully written but overly long and boring in spots. I may have expected too much of it. My knowledge of the book's backstory (the death of Grossman's son) affected my reading too much, I think.
LibraryThing member otterley
A compelling and illuminating word. For an outsider who glimpses Israel from afar, this book brings you into its beating heart, with all of its contradictions. Ora, mother of two boys bound up in the unceasing battle of Israel's existence, lover of two men scarred by the same conflict, walks the
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land in a quest for her son's salvation, and perhaps also his father'sand her own. We learn much through her walk about the brutality of war = from both sides - and its dehumanising and shattering impact on those who fight it. We also learn about the tenacity of motherhood, the bonds of family, friendship and land, and the great beauty of this sacred and profane territory. A book that should be read by anyone who cares about how we live in this world.
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Original language

Hebrew

Original publication date

2010-09-02 (English)
2008-04 (Hebrew)

ISBN

0307592972
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