In this stunning tale, Shalev masterfully interweaves two remarkable personal stories
Yair Mendelsohn, a middle-aged Israeli tour guide favored with bird watchers, learns that one of his new American clients fought in the Palmach,
a clandestine military force in Israel's 1948 war of independence.
The American recounts a day when a homing pigeon handler, nicknamed the Baby for his childlike features, was killed in that war and, in his final moments,
sent off one last pigeon. Yair is familiar with the American's story and listens with wistfulness.
As Yair slowly tells of his present and his past,
Shalev patiently builds tension around the Baby's final dispatch, giving vivid detail on homing pigeons and conveying the unique relationship between the birds and their keepers
- which echoes the touching care with which the Baby and his true love, the Girl, treat one another
The dark, stocky Yair, whose marriage is threatened by his burgeoning relationship with childhood friend Tirzah, makes a sympathetic protagonist
This gem of a story about the power of love, which won Israel's Brenner Prize, brims with luminous originality
539 pp. Hardcover