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The Wanting

Cover of The Wanting

The Wanting

A Novel
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From the author of Not Me, this powerful novel about an Israeli father and his daughter brings to life a rich canvas of events and unexpected change in the aftermath of a suicide bombing.

In the galvanizing opening of The Wanting, the celebrated Russian-born postmodern architect Roman Guttman is injured in a bus bombing, causing his life to swerve into instability and his perceptions to become heightened and disturbed as he embarks on an ill-advised journey into Palestinian territory. The account of Roman's desert odyssey alternates with the vivacious, bittersweet diary of his thirteen-year-old daughter, Anyusha (who is on her own perilous path, of which Roman is ignorant), and the startlingly alive witnessings of Amir, the young Palestinian who pushed the button and is now damned to observe the havoc he has wrought from a shaky beyond.

Enriched by flashbacks to the alluringly sad tale of Anyusha's mother, a famous Russian refusenik who died for her beliefs, The Wanting is a poignant study of the costs of extremism, but it is most satisfying as a story of characters enmeshed in their imperfect love for one another and for the heartbreakingly complex world in which that love is wrought.

From the author of Not Me, this powerful novel about an Israeli father and his daughter brings to life a rich canvas of events and unexpected change in the aftermath of a suicide bombing.

In the galvanizing opening of The Wanting, the celebrated Russian-born postmodern architect Roman Guttman is injured in a bus bombing, causing his life to swerve into instability and his perceptions to become heightened and disturbed as he embarks on an ill-advised journey into Palestinian territory. The account of Roman's desert odyssey alternates with the vivacious, bittersweet diary of his thirteen-year-old daughter, Anyusha (who is on her own perilous path, of which Roman is ignorant), and the startlingly alive witnessings of Amir, the young Palestinian who pushed the button and is now damned to observe the havoc he has wrought from a shaky beyond.

Enriched by flashbacks to the alluringly sad tale of Anyusha's mother, a famous Russian refusenik who died for her beliefs, The Wanting is a poignant study of the costs of extremism, but it is most satisfying as a story of characters enmeshed in their imperfect love for one another and for the heartbreakingly complex world in which that love is wrought.

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Excerpts-
  • Chapter One

    I don't know what it was. It might have been a head, or perhaps a hand or foot, it went by so fast, but following it, as if pulling a wire, came the explosion, and instantaneously the window I was sitting beside shattered. I can remember distinctly the feeling of glass slicing my skin--it was remarkably painless. At the same time, I fell sideways off my chair and landed at the foot of the drafting table, which I suppose is what saved me, for the entire window, the window I loved, the window that gave my studio an enchanting hint of antiquity in this otherwise modern neighborhood and suffused the entire room with light all the seasons of the year, crashed down in a thunder of tinker-bells, but not upon me. The drafting table was my umbrella. When it was finally quiet--and it was a quiet I had never heard before, a quiet that was a chasm between the breath before and the breath after--I looked up and saw a huge spur of glass hanging over the edge of the table, teetering just above my face. In that second, I thought of two things. I thought of God, and I thought of Kristallnacht. Then everything was noise--I couldn't tell what--screaming? sirens? cries for help?--and an incredible ringing in my ears that I thought might be angels crying, or laughing, or perhaps it was the ringing you hear when you are actually deaf.

    Looking up at the overhang of glass, I almost thought I was standing behind a waterfall, and the thunder I was feeling was the water careening down the cliff face. But I understood this was an illusion. I was on the floor and a bomb had just gone off. And the object flying past my window? It probably had been the head of the bomber, winking at me. But I was also aware that Amoz and Tsipa were speaking to me. Their desks were situated far from the window, all the way on the other side of the office, where I had put them. Now they were bending over me, breaking the curtain of water. I could see they were moving their mouths, but I could not hear them, so I smiled up at them and said shalom. But they did not seem to hear me either, and they did not smile back. And that is all I remember of that moment.
    I woke up in the ambulance. The paramedic was ultra-orthodox, like the guys who come around afterward and pick up body parts. His name tag read moishe. He had a greenish piece of salami stuck between his teeth and a beard that would be hanging down to his navel except that it was stuffed in a paper bonnet. He was wearing a Day-Glo orange security vest, a black scull cap, and eyeglasses that had slipped down onto the tip of his nose. But he seemed to know what he was doing.

    "Keep calm," he said.

    "Where am I?"

    He looked out the back window. "On Yehudah Street."

    Literalness, I had learned, was often a consequence of studying Talmud. "I mean, what happened?"

    He patted my hand. "You were in a terrorist attack. I'm guessing it's Hamas, but it could be Fatah or Islamic Jihad. I don't think it was Hezbollah. Yes, most likely Hamas."

    "How do you know?"

    He shrugged. "You get a feeling for these things."

    "Am I going to die?"

    "It's possible." He felt my torso. "But highly unlikely. It looks like you have some superficial cuts."

    I tried getting a glimpse out the window.

    "Don't move! One move and you could push that piece of glass right into your brain. Then you definitely would die."

    "There's glass sticking out of my head?"

    "A very big piece. If it was a mirror, I could do my makeup in it. And frankly I wouldn't talk so much, there's also glass jutting out of your cheek. You don't want to cut your tongue off. But don't worry. I'm here to save you. That's my job."

    "You're a...

About the Author-
  • Michael Lavigne was born in Newark, New Jersey, and educated at Millersville State College and the University of Chicago, where he did graduate work on the Committee on Social Thought. His first novel, Not Me, received the Sami Rohr Choice Award for emerging Jewish writers and was named an American Library Association Sophie Brody Honor Book and a Book-of-the-Month Club Alternate Selection; it was also translated into three languages. Lavigne has worked extensively in advertising, for which he has won many awards, is a founder of the Tauber Jewish Studies Program at Congregation Emanu-El in San Francisco, and spent three years living and working in the Soviet Union. He lives in San Francisco with his wife, Gayle Geary.



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