A Remarkable Kindness by Diana Bletter
Published by William Morrow
Publish Date: August 11, 2015
Find it here: Goodreads / Amazon
Through a largely hidden ceremony . . . four friends discover the true meaning of life
It’s 2006 in a seaside village in Israel, where a war is brewing. Lauren, Emily, Aviva and Rachel, four memorable women from different backgrounds, are drawn to the village. Lauren, a maternity nurse, loves her Israeli doctor husband but struggles to make a home for herself in a foreign land thousands of miles away from her beloved Boston. Seeking a fresh start after a divorce, her vivacious friend Emily follows. Strong, sensuous Aviva, brought to Israel years earlier by intelligence work, has raised a family and now lost a son. And Rachel, a beautiful, idealistic college graduate from Wyoming, arrives with her hopeful dreams.
The women forge a friendship that sustains them as they come to terms with love and loss, and the outbreak of war. Their intimate bond is strengthened by their participation in a traditional ritual that closes the circle of life. As their lives are slowly transformed, each finds unexpected strength and resilience.
Brimming with wisdom, rich in meaningful insights, A Remarkable Kindness is a moving testament to women’s friendship, illuminating a mostly unknown ritual that underscores what it means to truly be alive. (Goodreads)
My Thoughts: This is the story of four women living in Israel that come together to perform a traditional burial ceremony when a women dies in their community. These women are American Jewish women that have all moved to Israel for different reasons and consequently are all a part of the burial circle for different reasons. A Remarkable Kindness takes a look into the lives of Lauren, Emily, Aviva, and Rachel – at how they came to Israel, how they adjust to and enjoy their live in Israel, and how they feel about their part in the burial circle.
I went into this book fairly blindly, to be honest, which is how I love to start novels. I was mainly interested in the interaction of these women from different backgrounds, how they interact and form friendships when they come together. The author sets this story over about six years, from 2000-2006, so we are really able to get to know each woman over time and see how she connects to the other characters. One follows her physician husband to Israel because he wants to make a difference where he is needed rather than in America, where he is sure to live a more comfortable life. One is in Israel alone, to volunteer and change things and make a difference in the world. One moved there years ago, is a widow, and has lost too many family members to the unstable political and religious military violence. One moves to Israel after a divorce breaks her heart, looking for a fresh start. I grew to adore each of these women, and I was so interested in the things that they loved, the things that broke their hearts, their successes and mistakes, and how they felt about one another. I loved them all. I felt like I could feel them and see them in my head so very well.
The burial circle ceremony is not something that I knew about before this book. Bodies are prepared and cleansed for burial and then watched or protected until they are actually buried, and this is uniquely special because the dead cannot thank them for their service. I loved watching these woman learn this process and in return, grow in their respect for living and for death, and I also loved how this process changed their own lives in unique ways.
It is in between the burial circle scenes that we really learn these characters’ stories. I personally learned more about what was going on in this region at the time, and I always enjoy that, plus I learned more about the culture of the different groups of people living there. This book is so wonderfully character-driven and I was caught up in decisions and emotions and friendships and casual interactions with secondary characters. Long before the book ended, I was fully invested and wanted the very best for each woman/family.
I recommend A Remarkable Kindness by Diana Bletter for readers that enjoy women’s fiction and readers that enjoy learning about cultures other than their own. This would make a great beach or pool read.