Rachel and Benny, and Yalei and Arik are friends. Best friends. They do everything together - go for food together, go on holiday together, and have children… together? But, unexpectedly, Rachel and Benny ask Yael to take their child, Noa, if they die. Yael is pretty skeptical about the idea. Why would they be better than someone actually related to the child? But, Arik convinces her that the chances of both Rachel and Benny dying at the same time are so small, that why should they offend their friends? Reluctantly, Yael agrees.
Fast forward nine years. Benny and Rachel stayed in Canada, whilst Yael and Arik have moved to Israel. Contact between them has been virtually nil. But a woman named Debbie turns up on Yael’s doorstep with nine-year-old Noa in tow, explaining that she is now Yael and Arik’s responsibility.
From that moment on, Yael’s world is turned upside down. How could she have prepared for this? Surely, they must have changed their will after they moved back to Israel; surely no one can expect her to look after this very Canadian nine year old, whilst she has two boys of her own, and a job to be getting on with? How can she raise a girl she doesn’t even know? There must be someone else to take Noa on.
But there isn’t. Noa’s uncle is an Orthodox Jew, and therefore not someone the couple would have wanted Noa to grow up up with. Frustrated, Yael is certain there is some mistake: this was a plan hatched years ago - they must have other friends in Canada more suitable to this task than her?
But they don’t. And, from that moment on, Yael starts to divide her life into ‘before’ and ‘after.’ Travelling back across the Atlantic to Canada with Noa, Yael tries to find a more suitable adoptive or foster family. But the plot thickens, and the past isn’t as far away as she thought.
This book had a slightly slow start, but I got into after the first quarter or so - don’t lose heart! There are some formatting issues in the Kindle edition, which is a shame, as it breaks up the flow of reading whilst you struggle to work out what time period you are in. The other main critique I would have is the punctuation of direct speech; without using a new paragraph for a new speaker, it can become very easy to lose the thread of a conversation.
However, if you can look past these things, the book was a pleasant surprise. It goes much deeper, hits much harder, than I had first expected. The point of view switches heighten interest, as we hear from Noa herself, and her intense dislike for Yael. It can be quite painful to read: this child desperate for her parents to still be alive, and a woman who, at the beginning, is just desperate to get this ‘problem’ out of the way. But the story delves far deeper than that; by the end, the reader really ‘knows’ Yael as a character.
This is Einat Danon’s debut novel, and, setting aside the formatting and grammar issues, is very promising. I look forward to seeing her work grow in the future.