{Review}: The Best Place on Earth

Have you ever been to Israel? I went when I was 15, and even in my self-absorbed, navel-gazing teenage state, I knew that Israel was the most beautiful place I’d ever seen. It was the first foreign country I’d ever travelled to (Canada notwithstanding) and I’ve been to many others since then. Still the most beautiful place I’ve seen.

Reading Ayelet Tsabari’s collection of short stories, The Best Place on Earth, I pulled heavily from my mental image bank to transport myself to the setting of her stories. While the stories were an enjoyable read, I found them to be somewhat shallow in imagery and flat in character development. There’s a layer of gloss over the text that makes it feel like a rom-com or chick flick. In fact, I think I would very much enjoy a screen version of these stories.

Though the stories lack the grittiness needed for more compelling storytelling, the 11 stories are connected by the common thread of main characters that represent groups that have been traditionally marginalized–women, immigrants, non-Israelis, and the poor. Unlike a rom-com, there are no neat endings in this collection. The reader is left to create an epilogue for the characters.  But that’s par for the course with marginalized people– they lose control over their stories, and their voices are co-opted by people (readers, in this case) who are not them.  Empowered characters get to tell readers how it ends, but in this book, the characters become muted.

I came to that conclusion after I finished reading the book, but during,  I was fully engrossed in the collection and finished the book in two days, so it’s worth a read, if only for the opportunity to consider what responsibility an author has to her disenfranchised characters.

{I received a copy of this book for review purposes from NetGalley. This post contains affiliate links.}

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