A review of
Heatwave and Crazy Birds
by Gabriela Avigur-Rotem
Novels propelled by longing require little in the way of plot. Much of Heatwave and Crazy Birds takes place squarely in a woman's thoughts, turning over details of lonely days in the desert; of the habits of birds in a garden; of historical personages and dead family members who linger, as it were, with equal screen time. But Gabriela Avigur-Rotem's use of commas and em-dashes where sentences typically achieve closure lends the woman's inner life a quivering sense of urgency, and as the woman's place in the world slowly emerges—Loya is the daughter of a Czech-born archaeologist who returns to Israel to inherit a house after years of self-imposed exile—that urgency extends to the story line, which eventually collapses in on itself with the intensity of a whodunit.
One of the wonderful things about this novel is the way it can be both compulsively observant and spatially expansive. Every once in a while it seems as though someone has slit the book's tires, letting descriptions stream unimpeded out of depressurized paragraphs. These are often dark, unrequitable readings of the suburban landscape that recall Anne Sexton: a handbag "vomits" its contents; a group of women with cosmetic masks looks frightening, "like the busts of six Roman emperors"; a keyhole is "like a little girl cut out of darkness."
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