Wednesday, January 17

Exile by Richard North Patterson

Review by Theodore Feit 

A graduate of Harvard Law, David Wolfe since graduation has led a charmed life.  Successful prosecutor, outstanding criminal defense attorney, engaged to a socially and politically active woman who is the daughter of a holocaust survivor, to be married in seven months, now groomed to seek and probably win a Congressional seat.  A careful, well-planned life.  Then his world is turned upside down.

 

During his final weeks at Harvard, David, a Jew, had an intense but brief love affair with another student, Hana, a Palestinian.  Throwing caution to the winds, something he had never done before or since, he proposed marriage.   She turned him down, citing cultural differences, and left him to marry the man chosen by her parents.  Now, 13 years later, she is in San Francisco and calls him; they meet for a few minutes.

 

The next day, the Prime Minister of Israel is assassinated by a suicide bomber.  Hana, arrested as the bomber's "handler," asks David to represent her.  A Jew acting as attorney for a Palestinian "terrorist":  It is the makings—or unmaking—of a career.  In David's case it is the opposite of all his plans, the end of his engagement and his political career.   But it gives the author license to deeply explore the divisions between Israelis and Palestinians as David seeks proof that Hana is innocent.

 

In a three-week visit to Israel, David visits various representatives and factions, learning about terrorist activities and Palestinian grievances, giving the author the wherewithal to write in depth of various facets of the differences and attitudes of both, powerfully and at length.  Along the way two possible participants in the assassination conspiracy are met and in turn killed after David meets them, ending promising lines of inquiry.  The evidence against Hana is problematical, but no alternatives other than that she was framed are available.  Her trial as depicted is well drawn and the denouement, while somewhat predictable in its conclusion, cannot be anticipated as it turns out.  This very interesting and well-presented novel is a study in international relations and history—of the past grievances and lack of progress in finding a solution, if indeed there is one.  It is disheartening in all aspects, but informative and rewarding.

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