The battles of Israel’s War of Independence are raging in the opening pages of The Shortest Road by David L. Robbins (Wicked Son, May 2023). The novel is the sequel to Isaac’s Beacon and continues the story of the complex, flawed protagonists of that previous book.
Readers captivated by the struggles of American journalist Vince; Austrian refugee Rivkah and her machine gun-toting sister, Gabbi; and Malik, the mysterious, camel-riding Bedouin who befriends them; will have no problem jumping into the narrative, but others will be confused by who they are and what they’re fighting for.
The author holds back no punches in his descriptions of Israel’s bloodiest war and the politics of the young country’s leaders. Menachem Begin is portrayed as a brave Irgun fighter and idealist standing aboard the weapons-bearing Altalena cargo ship before it is sunk by IDF shelling. Eye-patched Moshe Dayan is shown leading reckless commando raids into Palestinian towns while Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion sits tight in his Tel Aviv office orchestrating the war efforts.
Especially hard for Israeli readers will be the extensive depictions of the eviction of Palestinians as Israel extends its territories eastward from Tel Aviv. Highlighted are the rounding up of the residents of Lydda, their forced march to Ramallah, the looting of their homes, and the murder of some of the innocent refugees. It is clear that the author has based his fiction on extensive historical research so readers would be hard-pressed to doubt its authenticity.
It is difficult to read The Shortest Road as a standalone novel, or to feel an emotional connection to its protagonists. The narrative falls short of providing their backgrounds and sentiments, so strongly delivered in the first book. Still, the author’s language is rich and the descriptions are vivid and evocative, making it hard to stop reading.
New York Times best-selling author David Robbins is the author of 16 novels and four professionally produced plays. Many of his books are historical, depicting the battles and conflicts of World War Two. In 2018, Robbins was named one of two most influential literary artists in the Commonwealth of Virginia.