First the Raven
by Leora G. Krygier
Category: Fiction / General
0 pages; ISBN: 1591291666
Rating: 10/10 (Ratings explained)
Reviewer: Carolyn Howard-Johnson
Reviewed by Carolyn Howard-Johnson,
author of "This is the Place" and
"Harkening: A Collection of Stories
Somehow, First the Raven appears in print just when interest in its subject matter is high, precisely when its message is needed.
The characters in this lovely first novel by Leora G. Krygier are Israeli transplants on Los Angeles soil. Their experiences in America are so germane to this moment in geopolitics it is difficult to imagine a more perfectly timed release. It is as if this little volume was sent to us so that we might better understand not only the immigrant experience, but also that we might see Israeli divisions that we have never before observed—at least not up close and personal as this story presents them.
The narrative centers on a journey of redemption for Amir that begins when he befriends Rosenberg, an elderly Holocaust survivor who he identifies with the Israeli politics that Amir was only too happy to leave behind. Amir’s relationship with a wife he loves is unraveling and his daughter is entangled with the kind of legal and moral morass that every parent fears the most. Amir longs for the freedom he once felt as a parachuter, feels a vague disease with his new home, a longing for his old.
Amir’s new friend is also emotionally detached from his wife and his son. The two strangers come together in a small restaurant in a Jewish section of Los Angeles only because it is so popular they must share a table. In spite of Amir’s reluctance to associate with the old Orthodox Jew, Amir slowly accommodates Rosenberg’s loneliness and in so doing finds someone who has just the right connections and character to help him through the explosions that he must face in the days ahead.
In turn, Amir’s virility, common sense and vulnerability combine to offer something the elderly Rabbi is not finding in his other relationships. We see how differences can heal rather than divide, a very real lesson for today’s world.
Krygier tells this story with sensitivity and with a command of language not seen in many mainstream novels. First the Raven is the kind of story that gives us something to take away with us once we have turned its last page. It may or may not change a readers’ perspective, but it certainly will give her comfort and confidence in the future. It’s hard to imagine that we could ask more.
(Carolyn Howard-Johnson’s award-winning novel,
This Is The Place is set in Salt Lake City, the site of the recent Olympics. Evie Grossfield, host of KTLA’s Talk of the Town with Evie, calls it “…fascinating…I highly recommend it to everyone.” The author is also a columnist for the Pasadena Star News and reviews movies for the Glendale News-Press.)