Review of Shani Boianjiu’s The People of Forever Are Not Afraid

“…when are we going to stop thinking about the things that don’t matter and starting thinking about the things that do matter?” Yael, “Other People’s Children,” chapter 1, page 5.

Shani Boianjiu, native Israeli, IDF veteran, and emerging novelist takes us behind the barriers and into the minds, hearts, and lives of three young Israeli women, Yael, Avishag, and Lea, as they navigate early adulthood as members of their national defense force in her first novel The People of Forever Are Not Afraid published by Hogarth.

The first thing that stands out to me in this work, that I enjoyed reading, was the narrative style. Quite frankly I am reminded of the narrative style of William Faulkner used that at times was cerebral, disjointed, and highly ‘stream of consciousness.’ In fact, the disjointedness reflects the lives of the three main characters, young Israeli women who follow a well worn path of national service in the Israeli Defense Force, before, during, and after their service and who struggle to find meaning and coherence in their lives and that of their personal worlds.

Each of the characters are troubled yet human, harsh and yet compassionate. We see this in such scenes at the guard tower, the check point, Route 433, and in their childhood and adolescent homes and post-service relationships. And while I would not use the term ‘nihilistic’ to describe the tone of the novel, there is a depressive and bleak element present throughout as Yael, Avishag, and Lea deal with death and the potential of death as part of their daily lives.

The novel begins with three of the four chapters each introducing one of the girls, Yael, socially conscious; Avishag, brash and bold, and Lea, opinionated and yet quiet. As the story unfolds, the reader is taken into maelstrom of the conflict which defines not just the lives of the characters and their fellow citizens but which affects the lives of many nations around the world. It ends with the story of Yael’s mother with a flashback to the mid-1970’s and her life as an Air Traffic Controller.

While I enjoyed reading this book, the narrative movement at times threw me into confusion as I struggled to keep up with the characters.

On my rating scale I rate this book a ‘good’ read.

Note: I received an uncorrected proof of the book via the Amazon Vine Review program in exchange for a review. I was not required to write a positive review.

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