Jerusalem in the winter of 2002 is the background for the love story of Yael, a married mother who is a doctoral candidate in anthropology investigating mourning customs of the ultra Orthodox, and Avshalom, a widower and bereaved father in that community. This love cannot be consummated. One morning when driving to the university her life changes: a terrorist blows up the bus ahead of her, which becomes a firetrap.
The last image Yael recalls from before the event is that of a little blonde girl in the back window of the bus playing peek-a-boo with her and the music of the Ode to Joy (Beethoven symphony No 9) that was playing on her car radio during the terrible event. After Yael recovers, she tries fruitlessly to locate the child. By a coincidence, because she is investigating mourning customs of the ultra Orthodox, she gets to the home of Avshalom, who lost his wife and little boy in the attack. It turns out that the little girl in the bus window was in fact a boy whose hair, following the ultra Orthodox custom, was not going to be cut until his third birthday.
Encountering Avshalom makes her optimistic about her own life and that of her three-year-old son, Yoavi. During her pregnancy, when she demonstrated with other Women in Black against the occupation of Palestinian territory, an anonymous woman cursed her that her unborn child would be killed in a terrorist attack just as her own son had been. Yael, in love with Avshalom, believes that if she marries him and he adopts her son the curse will be lifted, since the same disaster does not strike the same person twice (according to the Bible Liber Nahum).
Avshalom does not heed Yael’s entreaties, believing the loss of his wife and son is a divine punishment for his past sins. Brought up in a secular Kibbutz, he became strictly religious as a form of atonement for the role he had played as a fighter pilot bombing innocent children in Lebanon. This is a novel about the Israeli reality of the recent past, which includes the Intifada, the tension between the political Left and Right, and the dread that constantly disrupts the routine of parents’ and children’s lives.
The novel is woven with moments of grief and happiness, love and optimism, strong bonds between women, relationships within the family and ends with a hope for a better future.
Publisher: Am Oved , Tel Aviv
Translated to: English, Italian, French, and Dutch
‘Best of the Bunch’ – from the reviewers, the most praised books of 2005
“It is the detail of contemporary Israeli life, peopled with vital, rounded characters, that makes Shifra Horn’s new book such an engaging read… Horn dissects the grieving process with warmth, humour and compassion”
-Jewish Chronicle – London
“Shifra Horn is using her proven talent and with her meticulous language has written a mature and trustworthy story which fairly reflects her talent.”
-Noa Manhaim – Yediot Aharonot.
“Horn offers us in this book a deep examination, both sensitive and detailed of what we can call
‘the Israeli experience’.”
-Rena Varbin – Ha’ir
“Ode to Joy is the best of Horn’s books.”
-Haya Hoffman – Yediot Aharonot
“Shifra Horn presents us with a trustworthy and authentic picture of contemporary Israeli society. The book is written in very rich language, full of wonderful metaphors and sweeps the reader along from the beginning till the end. Recommended with enthusiasm.”
-Miri Paz – Galei Zahal Radio Station
“Horn is an excellent writer and her recent work places her in the first league of the classical authors.”
-Yaron Avituv – Maariv
“Horn is a natural and born story teller. She has the ability to build a character and describe her with all her advantages and her disadvantages. In her new novel Horn has managed to weave lots of meaningful ideas and wisdoms. The multiply themes are organized with skilful hands and she knows how involve and hold the reader.”
-Yoram Melzer – Maariv Literature