Ellis Shuman

Review of ‘Inside Information’ by Eshkol Nevo

In “Death Road“, the opening story of Inside Information by Eshkol Nevo, translated by Sondra Silverston (Other Press, June 2023), 39-year-old Omri is on a post-divorce trek in Bolivia when he meets honeymooners Ronen and Mor. That night, Mor knocks on his door and Omri senses that something is wrong in her marriage. Shortly afterwards, Ronen is killed in a freak bicycle accident. After returning to Israel, Omri makes a shiva call, even though he barely knew the deceased.

At the shiva, Mor shows no signs of wanting to talk to Omri, but then she slips him a note, asking him to meet her in a nearby park. Having escaped Ronen’s suspicious brothers, Mor tells Omri what caused her husband to fall into the abyss on Death Road. As she relates the story, Omri feels he is beginning to slip into the abyss with her. Is that what really happened and will he also pay the price for Ronen’s death?

In “Family History“, senior attending physician Dr. Asher Caro, supervising the residents in the hospital’s Internal Medicine department, notices the distinctiveness of Liat Ben Abu. Caro, ‘soft-boned and ham-fisted, still bowed by [his wife’s]’s death,’ develops a desire for Liat, not sexual in nature but rather a strong urge to care for her as he did for his wife when she was ill. When Liat falls for the charm of a fellow doctor, responsible for a string of brokenhearted women, Caro can’t help but reach out, anonymously, in an attempt to protect Liat from the same fate.

With tears in her eyes from the inevitable break-up, Liat shows up at Caro’s apartment, saying ‘What would I do without you?’ He offers her tea but she asks for alcohol. Dizzy, she lies down for a few minutes. When he leans forward to cover her, just like he tucked in his children when they were small, his hand inadvertently falls into the opening of her shirt. And then his troubles begin.

In the concluding story, “A Man Walks into an Orchard“, we meet Chelli, who takes an exercise walk every Saturday morning with her husband Ofer in the orchards near their home. On one such walk, Ofer informs his wife that he is dying to pee. He hands Chelli his phone and disappears among the trees. A minute goes by. Another minute. Another minute.

As the police investigate, family secrets are revealed. Chelli’s affair, which was known only to her son. The blog of 100-word, somewhat disturbing stories that Ofer faithfully updated. There is no trace as to Ofer’s whereabouts, but even when all leads dry up, Chelli refuses to give up hope. She misses ‘something that’s hard to put into words, maybe…connection?’ She also misses certainty. She wants to know ‘something for certain.’ What happened to her husband?

The three separate stories of Inside Information are independent of each other, novella-like in their length, with only a word or two connecting their narratives. Still, there is much to tie them together. In all three we meet unreliable, flawed narrators revealing their tales of love, intimacy, longing, and desire. Weaving them together is Nevo’s masterful ability to capture our attention with compelling narratives, unexpected twists, and unconventional love stories. The book, an absolute pleasure to read, leaves us wondering what will happen next in the lives of the relatable characters with whom we’ve become intimate on its pages.

Eshkol Nevo is one of Israel’s most critically and commercially acclaimed writers. His novels have all been bestsellers in Israel and published widely in translation. Homesick was awarded the Reimond Vallier Prize in France (2008) and shortlisted for the Sapir Prize in Israel (2005). World Cup Wishes (2007) won the Golden Book Prize in Israel and was awarded the Adei-wizo Prize in Italy. Three Floors Up (Other Press, 2017) was adapted for film by the acclaimed Italian director Nanni Moretti; and The Last Interview (Other Press, 2020) was a finalist for the National Jewish Book Award. Nevo is the grandson of Israeli Prime Minister Levi Eshkol, for whom he was named.

Sondra Silverston has translated the work of Israeli fiction writers including Etgar Keret, Ayelet Gondar-Goshen, and Zeruya Shalev. Her translation of Amos Oz’s Between Friends won the National Jewish Book Award for fiction in 2013. A native New Yorker, she has lived in Israel since 1970.

About the Author
Ellis Shuman made aliya to Jerusalem as a teenager, served in the IDF, was a founding member of a kibbutz, and now lives on Moshav Neve Ilan. Ellis is the author of ‘The Burgas Affair’ – a crime thriller set in Israel and Bulgaria; ‘Valley of Thracians’ - a suspense novel set in Bulgaria; and 'The Virtual Kibbutz' - a collection of short stories. His writing has appeared in The Times of Israel, The Huffington Post, The Jerusalem Post, Israel Insider, and on a wide range of Internet websites. Ellis lived with his wife for two years in Bulgaria, and blogs regularly about Israel, Bulgaria, books, and writing.
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