Story Title: ‘Sister Hills’ by Nathan Englander.
Collection/Anthology?: What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank (Weidenfeld & Nicolson)
Briefly: The story of the rise and development of a settlement in the Occupied Territories, told primarily through the trials and tribulations of the two women who are responsible for the settlement’s foundation.
Afterthoughts: This fable, which follows the rise and development of a settlement in the Occupied Territories, is startling both in its construction and in its ambition. I’ll be honest and admit that the story can get a little bogged down at times – and if you’re not familiar with Jewish culture, you’ll find yourself hitting Google often to gather the meaning of Jewish terms – but the effort is well worth it because Sister Hills is something special.
The story centres primarily on the two ‘founding’ matriarchs of the settlement, in four specific time periods (1973, 1987, 2000, 2011). Rena who lives on one hill suffers great loss in her life, while Yehudit on the other hill experiences the complete opposite. The story reaches a point where Rena is forced through grief to challenge Yehudit on a contract that they had made together during the early years. It calls for the judgement of a rabbinical court.
In one way Sister Hills offers a condensation of the history of the Occupied Territories in East Jerusalem (albeit a fleeting one), in another it explores rabbinical law. Altogether it’s just an extraordinary story that should be read, reread and studied fully, in order to get every bit of goodness out of it. Still think short stories are pointless and have little substance? Sister Hills will show you otherwise.
This story was read as part of a review of the Nathan Englander collection, What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank. If you want to find out more about this collection then I invite you to pop along to my forethoughts post for this title. I also encourage you to make a trip over to the publisher page for this title.