Winner of the Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature
Confident, original and humane, the stories in The Best Place on Earth are peopled with characters at the crossroads of nationalities, religions and communities: expatriates, travellers, immigrants and locals.
In the powerfully affecting opening story, “Tikkun,” a chance meeting between a man and his former lover carries them through near tragedy and into unexpected peace. In “Casualties,” Tsabari takes us into the military—a world every Israeli knows all too well—with a brusque, sexy young female soldier who forges medical leave forms to make ends meet. Poets, soldiers, siblings and dissenters, the protagonists here are mostly Israelis of Mizrahi background (Jews of Middle Eastern and North African descent), whose stories have rarely been told in literature. In illustrating the lives of those whose identities swing from fiercely patriotic to powerfully global, The Best Place on Earth explores Israeli history as it illuminates the tenuous connections—forged, frayed and occasionally destroyed—between cultures, between generations and across the gulf of transformation and loss.
This short story collection is a fiction debut for Tsabari, but it demonstrates that she is already a talented storyteller. An Israeli of Yemeni descent who immigrated to Canada in 1998, she perceptively observes life and its differences in Israel and Canada while skilfully inhabits a broad range of characters and voices. A man longs for his lost love. A Yemeni-Israeli grandmother travels to Toronto to see her first grandson, only to discover that her daughter and son-in-law refuse to have him circumcised according to their tradition. A Filipina caregiver lives a precarious existence as an illegal worker in Israel. Tsabari writes about her characters' near misses when suicide bombers fulfill their mission, marriages stung by unfaithfulness, and sisters struggling to reconnect and close the distance between their lives in Jerusalem and Vancouver. Her writing has an immediacy and power that invites readers into her characters' psyches: "Reuma lost her daughter over and over again: first she became Ashkenazi, then Canadian; it was in her melody of speaking, the polite words she'd started peppering her sentences with, the way she smiled at passersby on the street . A stranger. And now she was no longer Jewish." Tsabari' characters will step off the page to captivate readers. Distribution: HarperCollins Canada