The extraordinarily gifted Shani Boianjiu has published a first novel that is tense and taut as a thriller yet romantic and psychologically astute. The People of Forever Are Not Afraid (Hogarth) is the coming-of-age story of three girls—Lea, Yael and Avishag—who grow up in an isolated Israeli village in the desert. They are conscripted into the army (the writer knows what she’s talking about here, having served two years in the Israel Defense Forces), where each experiences her share of horrific violence interspersed with boredom, casual sex and pointless army drills. The women’s friendship is tested again and again, often in frightening ways, but they manage to stay close, linked by their past and by their primal understanding of one another. Boianjiu writes with clarity about atrocity and the absurdity of endless war, but it’s her tender acceptance of human frailty that ultimately makes this novel so engrossing.
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