Jblog Book Club

A place for discussing interesting books, including those on Judaism, parenting, and general fiction and non-fiction.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Welcome to Heavenly Heights

"Welcome to Heavenly Heights" is my most recent foray into my massive collection of J-fiction. This freshman novel by Rise Miller concentrates on Building 4 in a West Bank settlement called, what else? Heavenly Heights.

While there are a myriad of characters...so many that sometimes it's really hard to remember who is doing what and who is married to whom, in my opinion...her central character is Tovah who during the first few chapters, moves from her comfortably middle class neighborhood in New Jersey to an apartment in Building 4 in Heavenly Heights.

Overall, the novel draws a very vivid picture, although sometimes with some fuzzy edges, of what life in Israel is like for a new olah like Tovah. Her struggles with learning Hebrew and then actually using it in daily life are well portrayed as is the material struggle - going from a land of plenty and availability to one where things aren't so plentiful and sometimes not even accessible.

The family settles into an apartment filled with other olim - all with varying degrees of issues and baggage. All come from America where they are used to open space and their OWN space and having to live so closely together in Building 4 causes some ruffled feathers although the author tends to gloss over this...assuming it's a given, I think.

I found her transitions to be difficult and as noted on amazon.com, sometimes her timeline changes are awkward and hard to follow. Her characters seem to be immaturely developed and warranting of longer forays into their stories and issues which Tovah, her main character, sometimes, at best, is merely an observer.

Miller talks about the families, a few of the children and the building manager in depth but true to the title, we never really get "out" of Heavenly Heights...and there is no discussion about WHERE Heavenly Heights IS and how that relates to the experiences of the olim and how they feel about their new lives.

Still, I enjoyed the book and felt after I read it that I had a better idea of what it is like to be an olah. I learned some new words ("spongia") and despite all of the tension, I did enjoy the relationships (however underdeveloped) between the women of Building 4.

I would recommend this book but prepare to be left feeling a little disappointed.


At 10/29/2006 07:44:00 AM, Anonymous Ariella said...

I once took the book out the library. I started reading it but couldn't get into it. And believe me, I read a lot and have far more patience for getting into a book than most people do.

At 10/29/2006 12:12:00 PM, Blogger mother in israel said...

Thanks, Z, for your post!! I'll keep my eyes out for that book, but I won't recommend it for our book club yet.

At 11/06/2006 07:54:00 AM, Blogger Outoftown said...

I read that book a while back, and I would have to agree with you. It didn't stick at all in my mind, but it was an ok read.


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