by Kathy Walden Kaplan
I read this gentle, subtle little story in one sitting. It's quiet style reminds me very much of another book read several years ago -My Friend the Painter, by Lygia Bojunga Nunes- unrelated in time or place but with a similar theme: a child trying to make sense of difficult feelings, with the help of family, friends and close neighbors. The Dog of Knots is about a young girl named Mayim, living in Israel in 1973. She's worried about her future- two years of service in the Israeli army is mandatory at age eighteen- and the impending threat of war with the Arabs. She's wrapped up in plans to visit a friend in Jerusalem, and dealing with grief for a father who died when she was very young. Among these concerns is a little mystery- that of the stray dog who lives nearby in the wadi, living on handouts from the neighbors. Everyone knows the old dog, and they each find a different kind of comfort in caring for him and have a different name for him. But the dog answers to none of them, and nobody knows where he came from, only that he's been there a long, long time. Mayim visits her various neighbors and relatives, piecing together the puzzle of the dog's origins and at the same time finding strength through her friendships. This book is full of cultural references that were unfamiliar to me, but presented through the constricted view of a child, so not too complex. There's a helpful glossary in the back, for foreign terms used in the text. Even though I don't know much about the history of this locale or the war it discusses, the book is very moving, although quiet in tone, and it touched me. I found this one at a library sale.
Rating: 3/5 ........ 131 pages, 2004