Almost Dead, by Assaf Gavron. Published 2010 by Harper Perennial. Literary Fiction.
Eitan Enoch has the worst luck, or the best luck, of anyone in Israel. "Croc," as he's known to his friends, works for a tech company that's slowly going under; he's their star performer but his life starts to fall apart as he survives not one or two but three suicide bombing attacks. After the third, he becomes a celebrity of sorts- and a target, a symbol of survival to some Israelis and a symbol of frustration to the Palestinians behind the series of attacks in which he's enmeshed. Meanwhile, he’s crumbling under the weight of his trauma and his celebrity. Gavron tells the story from the alternating perspectives of Croc and Fahmi Sabih, a bomber who lies in a coma, and slowly and inexorably, the two men come together for the finale.
I enjoyed Almost Dead as both a thriller and a satire, although the satiric elements lessen as the story progresses. It's hard for me to say where Gavron is politically here; certainly he's sympathetic to his Palestinian character to a point, and he portrays the conflict as tragic on both sides. The book has a lot of great detail about modern Israeli life and I don't think the reader needs to have a detailed understanding of the Arab-Israeli conflict to enjoy the book but it probably helps. It would make a great read for most readers of popular and literary fiction interested in secular Israeli life (there is almost no religious content) and an interesting, edgy choice for a book club. I would actually love to discuss this book in a club setting, but it would probably never happen given the sensitivity of the subject matter. In any case Almost Dead is a great book for an adventurous reader and I hope to see more from Gavron soon.
An abbreviated version of this review will appear in the Association of Jewish Libraries' newsletter.