Judah Loeb, a Los Angeles Times, crime writer is concerned he might be losing his job when an old college friend, Cliff offers him a job. The assignment is to write a book about the Israeli-Palestinian Problem. Judah hasn't been to Israel since he spent time there many years ago as a college student, together with his then-girlfriend Ilana. With help from his fifteen-year-old daughter Hannah navigating social media, he finds Ilana is now living in Jerusalem, married to he one-time best friend Moshe Weinstein.
When he and Hannah make their journey to Jerusalem, for research purposes they are invited to stay with Moshe and Ilana. Since they last saw each other, Moshe has become a renowned activist for causes affecting both Israelis and Palestinians. But the night after Judah and Hannah arrive, one of Moshe's assistants, a Palestinian, is killed. Moshe is arrested for the crime, even though no one can believe he did it. From here on Judah will have to investigate this crime as well as come to grips with how he feels about Ilana and the actions of Moshe.
Silwan is a skillfully written story that allows the reader to follow Judah in his quest do discover what really happened to the characters in this story. In a way it's quite subtle, but it very convincingly displays Judah's feelings of discomfort, and Hannah comes across as a very spunky but resourceful teenager. It was vividly written. I could hear, smell, and taste Jerusalem throughout the descriptions. I think it captured the chaotic nature of the city and its inhabitants very well. It also seemed to suggest that no matter how much Judah tried to focus on the big picture he was researching-- even though he was unsure why he was hired for the job-- he always came back to the questions that revolved around his relationship with Ilana and their past together.
I did feel that the ending just faded away a bit. I think I might have preferred something stronger. It left me with lots of questions about why Judah and Hannah didn't confront Moshe about his actions more forcefully. Throughout the book, all the characters spent a lot of time giving opinions, reasons, and justifications for their actions or views, and at the end I think I was expecting more of this or maybe something less subtle. Nevertheless, I found this to be an engaging and entertaining book.
This Review was originally written for and published by San Francisco Book Review