The Inbetween People
The Inbetween People is the story of Avi Goldberg, reared on a kibbutz, who is serving 25 days in prison rather than an equal amount of time in the Israeli army. At night he writes about his present, and about his past relationship with a young Arab, Saleem, whose wife visits Avi when possible. The book also contains letters from Avi's father to his wife in the Netherlands, who deserted her family when Avi was four. The reader is meant, I think, to experience the meaninglessness of war through these two young men. My problem is that although many of their experiences are vividly told, I understand no more about them at the end than I did at the beginning. Other reviewers have remarked on Ms. McEvoy's style. A blurb on the back cover characterizes her as "Turning away from traditional and well-trodden literary landscapes,...." Why did she do that? Much of the narrative is fresh and readable; however, more is a series of sentence fragments interspersed with comma splices and other run-ons and no quotation marks for dialogue in the whole book. Did McEvoy never master the conventions of writing or is this an artistic decision? If artistic, what is it meant to convey? Moreover, she has adopted first person, present tense narration for Avi's present along with second person, present tense, for Saleem's past, first person past tense for their shared time, a generalized second person present tense for Saleem's story told in the past in which Avi is referred to in the third person, and Sahar's story in the first person present - and the letters, which are, of course, the father's first person present. Now this is as trendy as all get-out, but it's also a mess. For me the final blow is the fact that the narration is all one voice, no matter who the speaker is. I condemn out of hand a book in which a letter is in no way differentiated in style from the general narration. I will not believe that a man would write to his ex-wife, "And I remember you, an orphan from Tel Aviv, adopted by the kibbutz after the death of your parents, our immediate connection, as if we already knew each other you said, the awe in your grey eyes, the pride and the desire, and the sadness, for it was a tough war with many losses, and the kibbutz lost too." A young reader may find that touching and evocative of depth. I'm old, and reading these 176 pages felt a lot like reading 671.