The People of Forever Are Not Afraid by Shani Boianjiu

Published by Hogarth, September 2012 **

This was the one book I was so eagerly anticipating this summer, especially after hearing the editor sing its praises at the Book Expo America Editor’s Buzz Panel.  Considering my enthusiasm of Israeli history, I was excited about the premise of three girls’ experiences during their compulsory military service.  Instead of a well-crafted, engaging narrative, what I found was unstructured stream-of-consciousness anecdotes, constantly changing perspectives, and disjointed prose.  Very disappointing.

The perspectives of Yael, Avishag and Lea are difficult to differentiate.  When they take turns narrating in 1st person, it’s hard to distinguish who is speaking, and they often don’t identify themselves right away.  Then once I got used to a particular voice, there would be another perspective change, even to 3rd person, and I found this very disorienting.  Most exasperating was that there was not a smooth story.  Chapters would just address a particular event or idea, then all of a sudden it would be a year later and the situation would be dramatically different.  It didn’t help that I didn’t feel an emotional connection to any of the girls at any point.  I just couldn’t care about their miserable experiences in the military and how it ruined their lives.  The biggest let-down was that the end was left completely unresolved.  It was one of the most unsatisfying conclusions I had ever read.  There were some minor redeeming qualities, but those are overshadowed by my utter lack of enjoyment reading this book.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher.

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