Jessamyn Hope’s Safekeeping tells the story of a young man who, trying to escape his troubled life, sets off to live at a kibbutz once inhabited by his grandfather. Writes Liel Leibovitz:
Suicide bombings and peace talks, socialism and its decline, pogroms and the Holocaust—all vibrate beneath the surface, violent reminders of just how fragile and fleeting our time on the planet truly is. People perish, sometimes by their own design, sometimes at the hands of others; the only thing that is indestructible is [an heirloom brooch bequeathed to the main character by his grandfather], an elegant stand-in for all of Jewish history, beautiful and built to last even when the humans who pin it to their chests are not.
Not that the humans aren’t trying. Even in their darkest moments, Hope’s characters still appeal to higher powers, begging for the strength to persevere. Some look to politics, some to family lore, some to dogma. But Judaism being a religion of a thousand stubborn inquiries, a faith shaped by skeptics, the men and women of Hope’s kibbutz all discover that their convictions can only take them so far, and that none, even the steeliest, can survive the jolt we get when we finally overcome our most selfish urges and open up to others. In a climate like ours, with communal conversations too often governed by the censorious and the shrill, we’ll take all the empathy and warmth we can get.
More about: American Jewish literature, Arts & Culture, Israel, Jewish literature, Kibbutz movement