Thursday, October 9, 2014

Review: The Betrayers

Summary: These incandescent pages give us one fraught, momentous day in the life of Baruch Kotler, a Soviet Jewish dissident who now finds himself a disgraced Israeli politician. When he refuses to back down from a contrary but principled stand regarding the settlements in the West Bank, his political opponents expose his affair with a mistress decades his junior, and the besieged couple escapes to Yalta, the faded Crimean resort of Kotler's youth. There, shockingly, Kotler comes face-to-face with the former friend whose denunciation sent him to the Gulag almost forty years earlier.

In a whirling twenty-four hours, Kotler must face the ultimate reckoning, both with those who have betrayed him and with those whom he has betrayed, including a teenage daughter, a son facing his own moral dilemma in the Israeli army, and the wife who once campaigned to secure his freedom and stood by him through so much.

Stubborn, wry, and self-knowing, Baruch Kotler is one of the great creations of contemporary fiction. An aging man grasping for a final passion, he is drawn inexorably into a crucible that is both personal and biblical in scope.

In prose that is elegant, sly, precise, and devastating in its awareness of the human heart, David Bezmozgis has rendered a story for the ages, an inquest into the nature of fate and consequence, love and forgiveness. The Betrayers is a high-wire act, a powerful tale of morality and sacrifice that will haunt readers long after they turn the final page. -- Little, Brown & Co.

I have to be honest. THE BETRAYERS by David Bezmozgis wasn't really on my radar until I saw this video:

And then my interest was definitely piqued! Not only is the book trailer gorgeous, but it also has great music... and you can almost feel the drama and tension.

THE BETRAYERS was written by David Bezmozgis, one of the New Yorker's "20 Under 40" writers in 2010, so I was expecting a well-written story. I was definitely not disappointed on that front. Mr. Bezmozgis wrote a gripping story that made me both think and feel, and I always say that's a sign of a good novel.

THE BETRAYERS is about Baruch Kotler, a Soviet Jewish dissident who became a famous Israeli politician. When he disagrees with a stand about the settlements in the West Bank, he is forced to leave the country when his political enemies threaten to go public about his affair with much younger woman. He and his mistress flee to Yalta, a resort in Crimea that Kotler visited as a child. In a strange twist of fate, Kotler finds himself boarding with the man whose betrayal almost forty years ago sent him to the Gulag.

In the course of just one day, Kotler must face the betrayal in his life head on. He has to deal with those who have betrayed him along with those he has betrayed... including his wife and children.

THE BETRAYERS is a relatively short novel -- just 225 pages, but it packs a very powerful punch. By that, I mean this novel really delves into some complex issues especially ones concerning morality. The story itself isn't action-packed; however, it almost reads like a thriller. The tension between the various characters had me on the edge of my seat, and at times, I almost felt uncomfortable with the situations they faced.

This novel definitely moved me a great deal, and that's really saying something since the story is both short and takes place in 24 hours. I think that goes to show how talented Mr. Bezmozgis is. THE BETRAYERS was so well written and the prose was "tight" -- each word seemed to be written for a specific purpose. Needless to say, I was very impressed with Mr. Bezmozgis' storytelling abilities and wouldn't hesitate to read anything he writes.

In addition, the characters were extremely well-developed. Both Kotler and his "enemy" were extremely interesting characters in their own right, and the scene where they meet again was so good! However, the minor characters, namely the family members, were also also complicated. Kotler's wife and son were especially complex, and I loved the parts of the story where they interacted with Kotler.

Finally, I really appreciated how this boo made me think... and feel. My feelings for Kotler and his "enemy" were extremely complex. On the surface, I thought I'd understand Kotler more since he was a "victim" of sorts; however, by the end of the novel, I saw that there were more sides of the story. Eventually, I found that I had empathy for both of them -- which really surprised me. I guess that goes to show that things aren't black and white -- rather shades of grey.

THE BETRAYERS would make a wonderful book club selection. Truly, the characters and their actions are fascinating. This book also explores so many complex themes about human nature including guilt, grief, forgiveness, love, fate, faith, politics, reconciliation, and especially betrayal.

THE BETRAYERS is a well-written book that will definitely make you think. Recommended to fans of literary fiction and Jewish literature.

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.


bermudaonion said...

This sounds fantastic!!

Mitch Kelly said...

I loved this book! It's impressive that Bezmozgis is able to trigger such strong emotion in just over 200 pages.