"I smoked my first cigarette when I was six years old.... Now where the hell can I get a cigarette?" The year is 1949 and Nora, a prickly, strong-willed survivor of the Holocaust, has just walked off the boat in Haifa with her German daughter-in-law, Louisa. Nora expects to be met by her cousin Bela, a Zionist and war hero she has loved since they were children. But Bela fails to appear, and the women enter an absorption camp for immigrants to await an uncertain future. How will they fit into a society that does not believe in looking back? Louisa, the daughter of Nazi parents, proves a genius at self-invention-in many ways the perfect Israeli. Nora is neither heroic nor optimistic, yet she has no other home. When rumors swirl around the camp, she responds with a cranky and ironic distance that rises like a wall of barbed wire. What is she protecting behind that wall? The past, and its secrets. In Louisa, Simone Zelitch brings to life, with all the authority and inventive power of an old master, a story of hidden passion, broken dreams, and unexpected reconciliation. Stranded in a new land that asks them to look to the future, both women are forced to face the past and the responsibility each bears for what they have lost. Nora knows how to survive. Louisa must teach her how to forgive. "Remember the genius with which Jane Smiley retold the story of King Lear and his daughters on a thousand acres of Iowa farmland? It is with the same such genius that Simone Zelitch transforms the biblical story of the widow Naomi and her daughter-in-law Ruth. What a fine book it is, and utterly compelling."-Bob Shacochis
New York : G.P. Putnam's Sons, c2000.
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377 p. ; 24 cm.