The Pale of Settlement

The Pale of Settlement

Margot Singer

Margot Singer

In settings from Jerusalem to Manhattan, from the archaeological ruins of the Galilee to Kathmandu, The Pale of Settlement gives us characters who struggle to piece together the history and myths of their family’s past.This collection of linked short stories takes its title from the name of the western border region of the Russian empire within which Jews were required to live during the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Susan, the stories’ main character, is a woman trapped in her own border region between youth and adulthood, familial roots in the Middle East and a typical American existence, the pull of Jewish tradition and the independence of a secular life.In “Helicopter Days,” Susan discovers that the Israeli cousin she grew up with has joined a mysterious cult. “Lila’s Story” braids Susan’s memories of her grandmother—a German Jew arriving in Palestine to escape the Holocaust—with the story of her own affair with a married man and an invented narrative of her grandmother’s life. In “Borderland,” while trekking in Nepal, Susan meets an Israeli soldier who carries with him the terrible burden of his experience as a border guard in the Gaza Strip. And in the haunting title story, bedtime tales are set against acts of terrorism and memories of a love beyond reach. The stories of The Pale of Settlement explore the borderland between Israelis and American Jews, emigrants and expatriates, and vanished homelands and the dangerous world in which we live today.From Publishers WeeklySetting nine linked stories against a turbulent political background, Singer follows New York City journalist Susan Stern over two decades, as she flounders through a string of failed love affairs and maintains close relationships with Israeli relatives. Visiting her paternal grandparents in Haifa, Susan finds Israel relatively normal despite the 1982 Lebanon War. She loses some of her naïveté when her soldier-cousin, Gavi, joins a cult in the aftermath; after Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait, Gavi's behavior becomes even more difficult to navigate. By that point, Susan realizes she still has feelings for an ex-boyfriend who calls in a panic to confess that a casual girlfriend is pregnant with his child. Susan's affair with a married man is told in tandem with a tale about her grandmother's difficult first years in British-occupied Haifa, while a maternal uncle who is a Jerusalem archeologist digs up a more recent, and more uncomfortable, truth. The latter revelation is touched off by 2002 reports of violence in Israel: Susan feels guilt and responsibility for the ongoing political crisis, but also a deep yearning for the country. Many story lines go unresolved, but the end result is a pungent composite portrait of a strong, complicated woman. (Oct.) Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. Review"Awe inspiring . . . Readers yearning for the elemental forces to return to contemporary American fiction will applaud Singer's thundering debut." --Kevin McIlvoy, author of The Complete History of New Mexico: Stories"A deft braiding together of private life and the political and religious context in which desire unfolds . . . A first-rate debut." --Nicholas Delbanco, author of Spring and Fall"Margot Singer gives brave and eloquent voice to a new generation of Jewish wanderers in a global diaspora. In her stories, Israel is the first, enduring love, the place of origin and ending--but for many of her Israeli characters, a difficult and increasingly destructive love." --Judith Grossman, author of Her Own Terms"The yearning for independence and the effort to sustain an identity pulsate throughout these masterful stories. A talented artist of the Jewish scene in Israel and the Diaspora, Singer is a new writer to savor." --Molly Abramowitz, Lilith"Margot Singer gives brave and eloquent voice to a new generation of Jewish wanderers in a global diaspora. In her stories, Israel is the first, enduring love, the place of origin and ending--but for many of her Israeli characters, a difficult and increasingly destructive love." --Judith Grossman, author of Her Own Terms
Read online
  • 46
Underground Fugue

Underground Fugue

Margot Singer

Margot Singer

Set against the tube bombings in London in 2005, Underground Fugue interweaves the stories of four people dislocated by shock waves of personal loss, political violence, and, ultimately, betrayal. It's April and Esther has fled New York for London, partly to escape her failing marriage, and partly to care for her dying mother, Lonia. Their lives soon become entwined with their next-door neighbors: Javad, an Iranian neuroscientist, and his college-aged son, Amir, who is drawn to the illicit exploration of the city's forbidden spaces. As Esther settles into life in London, a friendship develops with Javad. But when terrorists attack the London transit system in July, the chaos that follows both fractures possibilities for the future, and reveals the deep fault lines of the past. With both nuanced clarity and breathtaking grandeur, Margot Singer's Underground Fugue is an elegant, suspenseful, and deeply powerful debut.
Read online
  • 43