Book Review: Expectations and reality

As Far As The Eye Can is a collection of 20 short stories.

As Far As The Eye Can See Book By Moshe Dann
This is a collection of 20 short stories; if there is any link or common theme to them all, it would probably be loss, unmet expectations, tragedy and loneliness – for these are far from “happily ever after” tales.
Some of the stories in Moshe Dann’s As Far As The Eye Can See will be read with a lump in the throat, some will evoke tears and some will raise questions for which there are no answers.
The prelude, “An Orchard of Dreams,” is written in first person and appears to be autobiographical. It begins in Detroit, with the father’s dream of living in “an orange grove in Israel.” It is the dream of many Jews whose life in the Diaspora is of necessity materialistic, rooted in the need for survival. When they dream of Zion , it is a place of ideals and yearnings, seen through a prism of dreams and stories and the words of “Hatikva” – The Hope.
The home was traditional but not too Orthodox, with both parents strongly Zionistic. The narrator’s mother and father finally made aliya after the father’s retirement, not searching in the end for orange groves, but a simple life in their dreamed-of homeland.
It was not to be. They returned to America disappointed, defeated by the difficulties and privations. His father died a year later. The son finally came and, after many disappointments and losses, learned the language and utilized his skills as a historian and writer by becoming a tour guide. All of his stories reflect his deep knowledge of Jewish history, love of the land and its people, and a yearning for fulfillment.
Many of the stories reflect the pain of divorce and its aftermath, such as “Love in the Time of Floods,” with a cameo of Sam: “Rubbing his eyes, he tried not to remember the fights and her unforgiving silences.
He wanted to sleep for days, to be hugged, to plow a field, run a harvester.”
Then, in “Watchers from a Far Country,” Avi tries to explain how he had married an Israeli widow with young children, and tried to adjust to a culture that he didn’t understand and a language he couldn’t speak. “Hanging on to threads of dreams unraveling, he tried to weave a new life from a coarse, unfamiliar fabric, trying to make a rug into a magic carpet.”
Another dominant theme in many of the stories is the failed relationship and hunger for love between a son and his father. In “Life in the Mind,” the therapist’s notes on his patient Robert proclaim: “Father’s expectations dominant – and unmet. Struggles to establish independence, separate identity.”
The final story, “Blessings in the Land,” is written mainly in dialogue, and people will be able to identify with at least one of the views expressed by disparate family members. The current situation in Israel is discussed from varying political viewpoints; hopes and fears among humanistic concerns and the reality of terrorism.
The hilltop youth, displaced Gush Katif settlers, yeshivot, Hamas – all the concerns Israelis meet on a daily basis are covered.
Dann’s stories are poignant and not easily forgotten, the characters drawn so well that the reader will empathize with them long after the book is closed.
One will be reminded to nurture the relationships they hold, because life – its yearnings and promises – is very fragile.