This book is fundamentally the story of immigration and coming of age during the pioneer period of the 20s and 30s, and in young State of Israel. It is lighthearted and laugh out loud funny . I immediately felt like a part of the family. Having lived in Israel, the constant battle with keeping dirt out of the house brought back memories and made me laugh.
Shalev takes you though the history of the early Jewish pioneers to Israel in a unique way – through the stories from his family. His grandmother, a young Russian bride finds herself in a dusty, muddy, farming community (a Moshav) in the north of Israel. It is here that she wages a battle against dirt: closing off parts of the house in an effort to keep them clean; making everyone shower in the barn, rather than in the bathroom; not allowing anyone in through the front door, but rather keeping everyone outside on the patio. Her, and her family’s, relationship with the vacuum cleaner (sent to her as a gift from her husband’s brother living in Los Angeles) is complicated as well – both in terms of cleanliness and geo-politics.
This is one of the sweetest and funniest accounts of Moshav life and the hardships of the earlier Jewish settlers that I have read. One thing to note is that it is translated into English from the original Hebrew, so sometimes the language, while rich, is sometimes a bit awkward. Nonetheless, it is a fun and quick read, and well worth the time.