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REPOST: With A Good Eye Review in North of Oxford

Through a careful recounting of emotional development, Green leaves us convinced that life, and love, will win out.

 By Thaddeus Rutkowski

The novel With a Good Eye (AOS Publishing, Montreal) follows the fortunes—and misfortunes—of Luna Levi, a young Jewish woman living in Ottawa in the mid-1980s. In prose that is tight, spare, and fast paced, Gila Green brings her main character, nineteen when the story begins, into a workable adulthood. As we read through the chaos of Luna's family life, we learn that she acquires a hamsa—a palm-shaped amulet "thought to protect against the evil eye." Worn as a charm, the object is "a popular symbol in . . . Sephardic and Yemenite cultures," where Luna has her roots. Perhaps she will be watched over by "a good eye."

Luna's journey takes place in a Canadian city that is most likely unfamiliar to tourists. Here, delinquent teenagers use knives to rob stores and low-level gangsters take over businesses to make illegal profits. Already an outsider, Luna watches as her parents try to gain a foothold and raise a family. Her mother, an actress by trade, starts up a convenience store, then a restaurant, but her constant travel takes her away from any real involvement with the businesses (or her family). Luna's father, a former soldier in the Middle East, suffers from post-traumatic stress and is unable to work steadily. We learn that Luna "still has childhood memories of scrounging through garbage bins [with her father], especially after garage sales, and looting the overflow from lost and founds." Luna's brother, who is older than she is, distances himself from home life and eventually leaves with his girlfriend for Toronto. In the midst of all this, Luna is left to pick up the pieces.

However, the situation isn't all bad. The good eye comes into play as Luna gains support from a longtime woman friend and forms a bond with a young man who arrives in Ottawa and latches onto her. One thing bringing these young people together is a shared cultural heritage. "How many Sephardic guys do you think you'll find in this town?" Luna's friend Aiden asks. The answer is, not many, and there is something to be said for people with similar identities banding together. As well, I believe that Luna's parents and brother do care about her in their own way and do their best for her. Luna's father, who lost friends in combat, might be the loosest cannon of the bunch, but he often communicates with her by leaving her notes written in Hebrew.

Green doesn't cover Luna's life after her twentieth year, but there is a strong sense that this young woman will take matters into her own hands. Through a careful recounting of emotional development, Green leaves us convinced that life, and love, will win out.

You can find the book here:

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Saturday, 22 June 2024

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