Unsettling.

Written By: sherridaley - • •

Waking Lions by Ayelet Gundar Goshen

Like Bonfire of the Vanities, this debut novel starts with a hit-and-run, an unexpected bolt of violence in the very first sentence. So unexpected that I had to go back and re-read the first few pages to make sure I had got it right.

Unlike Bonfire, however, the protagonist of Waking Lions is a good man that I kept rooting for, even though leaving a man bleeding by the side of the road in the middle of the night, in the middle of a desert, is a despicable thing to do.  Especially since the driver, Eitan Green, is a doctor – a neurosurgeon, actually, and – um – married to a police detective. They’ve got a solid marriage with two healthy sons.

But now Dr. Green has an ugly secret. He knew the man was beyond resuscitation, and furthermore, an Eritrean migrant (Yes, I had to look it up, too.), probably undocumented; and so, under a beautiful moon and a scattering of bright stars, Dr. Green left him there and went home.

Fear, guilt, morality, and racism are all tumbled together in a story that I kept stumbling over, never quite expecting what would happen next.  If nothing else, Waking Lions will test what you thought you knew about people. It’s uncomfortable, provoking, and tangled. I actually gasped when I finally grasped what hell Dr. Green had gotten himself into.

But it was a hell of good intentions, and once there he could not leave. Would he fall in love with the widow of the dead Eritrean? She is strong-willed, single-minded, and Dr. Green grew to find her beautiful. Would his guilt finally give him away? It had to. His wife was assigned to investigate the hit-and-run. How much worse could it get?  Well, it could and it does.

I don’t want to tell you much more, because the surprises are what make the book so impossible to put down. You will never, ever see the ending coming.

And you will never really feel good about it.

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