Book Review of Trivial Pursuits? by David K. Israel and Jennifer Byrne

There’s no easy or standard way in which human beings cope with loss. The process of mourning can pull families together or tear them apart. David K. Israel’s and Jennifer Byrne’s new novel, Trivial Pursuits?, reveals how two families deal with one of the most difficult and non-trivial aspects of life: the death of their loved ones. Although written in a realist style, with three-dimensional characters that readers can easily relate to, the structure of the novel has some postmodern, Robbe-Grillet, elements to it in the way it intertwines, in an almost accidental meeting, the two distinct strands of the plot.

One strand traces the life of Fareed, an endearing fifteen year old Druze boy from Israel, whose mother died tragically of breast cancer. He spends his life in an R.V. touring L.A. with his father, memorizing trivia in the hopes of landing a spot on the popular show Jeopardy! Teen-tour.

Incidentally, for the history buffs out there, the novel offers a fascinating depiction of the Druzes, people of Arab origin (perhaps with Jewish roots, some experts claim) that remain loyal to every country they live in. For this reason, as young Fareed explains, the Israeli Druzes are the only Arabs who enroll in the army to defend the state of Israel. This is a very interesting choice of narrator: one that crosses ethnic, religious and cultural boundaries in unexpected ways, especially given that the political situation in the Middle East is such a polarizing topic.

The second strand of the novel follows the lives of Amy and Greg, a couple who live a few miles away, in the Valley. Their marriage initially faces the challenge of not being able to have a baby (naturally) together, then the sudden death of their adopted child, P.J. To cope with their loss, both families undergo a difficult process of mourning. The only question is: will this pull them together or push them apart?

While Amy finds temporary solace in a casual but torrid lesbian affair with Lynette, Fareed experiences his first true love with an older girl named Eos. Their paths cross as Eos meets Amy and Lynette, but eventually the two sets of lives move in different directions. You can read this intricately woven and moving novel about loss and regeneration online, by purchasing it on Amazon.com Kindle Edition or by sampling select chapters on Neatorama’s Bitlit, on the link below:

http://www.neatorama.com/bitlit/category/trivial-pursuits/

Claudia Moscovici, literaturesalon

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