The story starts out with a hit-and-run accident: neurosurgeon Dr. Eitan Green, after a long night at a hospital in rural Israel, hits an Eritrean man with his car and quickly flees the scene. The next day, the man's widow shows up at his house with his wallet. The rest of the book - alternating point of view between Eitan, his wife (Liat, a Detective), and the dead man's wife (Sikrit) - reads like a thriller. This is Ayelet Gundar-Goshen's second novel (her first, also wonderful: One Night, Markovitch). The moral dilemmas the characters face, coupled with the foreign location, heightens the tension. There were points when I had to put the book down and take a breather because it is just so intense. The title, Waking Lions, comes from a passage mid-way through the book when Liat begins to suspect something is up with Eitan (remember, Liat is a detective. At this point she is investigating the hit-and-run in the desert):
She knew that any other woman would have started checking up on him long ago. And she knew that she, who checked up on and investigated others on a daily basis, she, of all people, would never do that. She wasn't willing to look at him with those eyes of doubt. To look for signs, traces. She wasn't willing because if she began doing that know, she wasn't sure that she would be able to stop later. On a safari in Kenya, after their wedding, the guide had told them that once a lion tastes human flesh, it won't ever want to hunt anything else. Perhaps it wasn't true, just a story for tourists, but her lioness's instincts knew there was no greater temptation, no hunt more tantalizing, than the ambush of your loved ones.
Hopefully that gives you a sense of the way Gundar-Goshen writes. I read that Gundar-Goshen believes "the writer's job is to force readers to look at what they'd usually avoid." This book is a masterclass in that: she deals with issues of illegal immigration, of prejudice, of guilt, of privilege.... It's really quite something. She was also trained as a clinical psychologist (before she became an author?) so each character is fleshed out with a mix of good and bad that they become so authentically human. I kept wanting to skip to the end to just figure out that everything was going to be okay (I didn't, I kept reading, and I encourage you to do the same). Rating: ★★★★★