THE SEVEN GOOD YEARS | ETGAR KERET | BOOK REVIEW

THE SEVEN GOOD YEARS is a book that has received nothing but praise the world over. When Clive James calls him “one of the most important writers alive” people notice. A man and his wife bringing their son up in an incredibly dangerous place who do nothing but find the good in everything that occurs. Edgar Keret will go down as one of the best modern observational storytellers. It is released by Scribe Publications and is out now (released in June) in most good book stores or purchase it via HERE in most formats. Enjoy another fantastic review from Kernel Fiona……..all the best……….JK.

 

THE SEVEN GOOD YEARS AUSTRALIAN BOOK COVER IMAGE
THE SEVEN GOOD YEARS | ETGAR KERET | SALTY POPCORN BOOK REVIEW | AUSTRALIAN BOOK COVER IMAGE

 

BY FIONA FYFE

The first thing I asked myself after I reluctantly put this book down, was why haven’t I read anything else by this author? You had me at Chapter One, Mr Keret. Then I pondered the question – was I predisposed towards the book and its subject matter because of my own Jewish ancestry? I decided that it’s safe to conclude that I loved the book for the same reasons I love reading David Sedaris and Steve Martin and Akmal Saleh – because those guys make me laugh out loud.

That is not to say that THE SEVEN GOOD YEARS is a comedic romp from start to finish. Keret takes us on a journey from the day his son, Lev is born during a terrorist attack on Tel Aviv through his various escapades on book tours and finally to his father’s death. He does this in a light hearted sometimes self-deprecating way with a healthy amount of personal insight.

Currently he is a lecturer at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and has written a number of short story collections and graphic novels. His style is both wry and intellectual, delivered with that acerbic Jewish wit. Although his books have been translated into 37 different languages, he says that he has opted not to publish THE SEVEN GOOD YEARS in Hebrew or in Israel because that is the language of his family and the place where those nearest and dearest to him reside. Perhaps he also fears the backlash from his very Jewish mother. Hell hath no fury…

A message of praise for Keret by his friend Shalom Auslander had me chuckling – “When I first read Etgar’s stories, I wondered what was wrong with him – had his mother smoked crack while pregnant? – until I met him, and grew to know him, and realised his problem was much worse than I had ever imagined: he is a terribly caring human being in a terribly uncaring universe. Basically, he’s fucked.”

Keret has an uncanny ability to draw the marrow out of seemingly traumatic and undesirable situations and turn them into something better merely by applying an optimistic and upbeat attitude or interpretation. He is perhaps a walking version of a Feel Good Self Help book with his slightly eccentric take on life and all its challenges and disappointments.

 

THE SEVEN GOOD YEARS INTERNATIONAL BOOK COVER AND AUTHOR IMAGE
THE SEVEN GOOD YEARS | ETGAR KERET | SALTY POPCORN BOOK REVIEW | INTERNATIONAL BOOK COVER AND AUTHOR IMAGE

 

Central to this book is the love and pride he has for his family, especially that of his son. On a trip to grandpa’s house, an air raid siren is activated and the family are forced to abandon their car and lie down beside the road. In an effort to calm his 7 year old boy, he invites him to be the pastrami in the sandwich and nestles him between he and his wife as they wait for the attack to be over. His son is completely pre-occupied with being a piece of pastrami and entirely forgets his initial feelings of terror about rocket launchers and the explosions in the distance. Keret tells him that next time they will play the toasted cheese sandwich game.

In a moving chapter entitled Idol Worship, he recalls his intense childhood and adolescent admiration for his older brother. He follows with interest his brother’s amazing academic achievements and his adventures during his time in the Israeli army as a conscript. Eventually his brother marries and goes to live in Thailand where he builds internet sites for Israeli and international companies. The pay is modest and the brother’s home is devoid of air conditioning or a toilet with running water but he is happy and his life is full. On a trip to visit his brother’s family, Keret describes a touching moment between his brother and a Thai elephant. The incident serves to illustrate the high esteem in which Keret still holds his sibling and the gentle nature of the man as an adult.

I’ve heard it said that a successful comedian is able to make his or her audience laugh by tapping into those ordinary everyday experiences that we can all relate to. Keret does this skilfully and humorously recalls some of his book tour encounters. I was particularly tickled by his night at a Bavarian restaurant with his German publisher when he narrowly avoids being ejected from the premises. As a second generation Holocaust survivor it is unsurprising that he isn’t exactly comfortable around German culture but his reaction in the restaurant stems from misunderstanding one of the other patrons who is staggeringly drunk and escalates from there.

There is no question that readers will laugh along with Keret’s stories but his book also offers an opportunity to understand the terrible strain that some of our fellow humans are under in countries where war is ongoing. The ever present threat of yet another terrorist attack or air strike is a timely reminder that even in the midst of chaos, a happy and empathic heart can prevail. Do yourself a favour and have a read of THE SEVEN GOOD YEARS, you won’t be disappointed.

 

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