Kate Caroline reviews The People of Forever Are Not Afraid, the debut novel by Shani Boianjiu, chronicling three girls’ experiences serving in the Israeli army.
Yael, Lea, and Avishag are three girls who grew up together in a small Israeli town. Now they are in their last year of high school, and have little to do other than copy each others’ homework, talk about boys, plan parties, and discuss what it will be like when they go into the army.
In Israel, every citizen serves an obligatory two years in the army. The girls are just waiting their turn, not knowing when or where they will be placed.
When Avishag’s brother comes home after his service, he is changed in unpredictable ways, unnerving the girls.
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When they are conscripted, each of the girls is placed in a different unit. Yael becomes a skilled markswoman and plays around with heavy weaponry.
Lea works at the border, checking people’s identification and making up stories in her head about the people she sees.
And Avishag is a guard, watching a screen for hours on end, occasionally standing by as people die in the barbed wire fence trying to get across the border.
They never actually see war, although they are constantly preparing for it. But none of the girls takes the army or the prospect of war very seriously, and they generally do as they please, only occasionally being reprimanded.
The girls grow up during the course of service, although there seems to be a stubborn childishness left in each of them. Perhaps it is this that allows them to maintain their friendship through everything.
The story continues after Yael, Lea, and Avishag complete their service, and we see how they attempt to reintegrate into civilian life, which is not without its struggles.
Nothing happens in this novel, and at the same time, everything happens. There is no major climactic event but the characters experience and change a lot during its course.
I personally enjoyed this book because it discusses a subject matter not often treated in media or literature: women’s military experiences. Also, Boianjiu’s style is unique and refreshing. It is a novel worth exploring.
About the Author
Shani Boianjiu was born in Jerusalem. She based this novel on her own experiences serving in as a border guard in the IDF for the Israeli army. This is her first novel.
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