Readings for Writers: Pick of the Week 2/6/15
Every few weeks, a member of the Grub community recommends a book they find helpful or inspirational from a craft perspective. This week, Grub staff member Alison Murphy recommends one of her favorite novels.
I became a hardcore evangelist for David Grossman’s To The End of the Land when it came out in 2008, and haven’t shut up about it since. I reread it every year, and it murders me every time. In a novel that is somehow equal parts sprawling and economical, Grossman tells the story of Ora, the mother of an Israeli soldier who fulfills his IDF service only to reenlist for a twenty-eight day campaign. Unable to face another month of waiting, Ora sets out to hike the length of Israel with her formerly estranged friend Avram, unsure of where they're going or when — if ever — they will come home.
This novel is a masterpiece of pacing, weaving historical and emotional backstory together with unparalleled deftness to create a narrative that is entirely unique. It is also a testament to what fiction can become when it's only goal is to tell the truth. Grossman started the novel in 2003, just before his own son began his military service. “I had the feeling — or rather, a wish — that the book I was writing would protect him.” When his son was killed in the Lebanon War of 2006, Grossman had just finished his first draft. “What changed, above all,” he said, when asked how his son’s death affected his writing, “was the echo of reality in which the final draft was written.” It is that echo of reality that provides the emotional force of this story.
As Director of Online and Special Programs at GrubStreet, Alison Murphy works on developing new and innovative models for our online and intensive programs, as well as overseeing our consulting program. When not at Grub, Alison can usually be found at her laptop with her faithful basset hound Murray at her feet, writing about war and pop culture, or teaching creative writing to inmates in the prison system. A 2016 James Jones First Novel Fellow and graduate of the 2014-2015 Novel Incubator, Alison is hard at work revising her first novel. Her nonfiction can be found in The Wall Street Journal, Men's Journal, PsychologyToday.com, and elsewhere.See other articles by Alison Murphy