Waking Lions by Ayelet Gundar-Goshen

Waking Lions

WOW!  That is my first reaction.

Waking Lions by Ayelet Gundar-Goshen is a fantastic and timely novel. The story begins when Eitan Green, an Israeli neurosurgeon, is driving home from a lengthy shift in the ER.  Instead of going straight home, he decides to take a night-time drive in the desert in his SUV, following the same road the people of Israel walked when they left Sinai for the promised land.  As he is admiring the moon, Eitan hits an Eritrean refugee. There are no witnesses.  Eitan gets out of his car and checks the man.  Though still barely alive, this man will die, and cannot be saved.  His moral dilemma:  stay and call for help and comfort this man when he dies, and thus confess to the crime and risk losing his career, his family and the highly successful life he built; or, drive away. Eitan drives away.

The next morning, as his wife (who happens to be a police detective) leaves to deliver their two young children to school, a woman comes to the door.  She tells Eitan she knows what he did-she witnessed him run her husband over with his car and tells him to meet her at ten that night.  Eitan withdraws a large sum of money, tells his wife he has a late shift, and meets the woman.  She does not want the money; she wants Eitan to help her in a medical clinic, tending to refugees who have not received needed medical care.  The commitment is for more than one night, prompting Eitan to lie to his wife and his work to cover for where he is.  Eitan becomes more and more intrigued by this woman and the work with the refugees, despite his fear and arrogance.  How long will Eitan be able to maintain this secret double life?

In an interview with The Guardian, Ayelet Gundar-Goshen says on an earlier back packing trip in India, she met an Israeli who hit a local Indian and didn’t stop. Gundar-Goshen wanted to pose that situation to the reader:  would you stop?  Most of us would say “of course.”  What makes this novel even more interesting, is that the reader can answer this question at several points during the novel, as more information is revealed, in a “what if this is also true?” style.

There were a few tabbable passages, and one in particular that I would like to share:

And Semar, who looked at him with gaping eyes, like a chicken in a kibbutz coop looking at a fox.  As though he was someone to be feared.  People generally assumed that someone like him had made a choice somewhere in the past.  For example–at a crossroads.  One road turned right.  The other left.  If he turned right he would choose evil.  If left–good.  The directions themselves weren’t important.  What was important was the crossroads; that is, the existence of the moment when a person stands before two clear, opposing paths and chooses one over the other.  Of course, at that moment, he may not necessarily know that a turn to the right will end in a life of evil and a turn to the left will lead to a life of goodness.  But he knows he is choosing.  And that when he reaches the place he finally reaches after many days and kilometers, he can look back and pinpoint the moment it all began.  He can say there.  It happened there.

Waking Lions would make an excellent book group selection. I highly recommend it to all readers, regardless of your genre preferences!







  • Barbara Keefe

    The reviewer alludes to the choice made by the doctor to leave the dying man who can’t be saved and to move on with his life. But it appears that he was never really able to move on once his choice was made. I’m not generally a fiction reader but this book sounds closer to a non fiction narrative and a moral tale. Thanks for sharing, I might actually read Waking Lions.

  • kate callahan

    Love the “tabbable passages” section; I do that also, and now have language to describe the practice – thanks!