Master storyteller Meir Shalev’s TWO SHE-BEARS is an unconventional literary thriller about two murders – one committed as an act of vengeance and the second as an act of retribution. Spanning three generations in one family’s life, this is a tale of love, betrayal, revenge, loss, brutality and salvation.
“I have never avenged a person with a real vengeance. I have never felt that kind of impulse towards anyone, but the emotion of vengeance and actualizing it has attracted me and has suffused me with curiosity for many years. And from the day that I began writing I have been contemplating this possibility. This is the only privilege authors have, to create for themselves the plot that they would like to read and even participate in. Two She-Bears is the fruit of this enduring aspiration. It is told through the voice of a woman, Ruta, forty-six years old, as she describes the vengeance, the love, the memory and the passion in her family. Part of the book is based on a true story that has been kept secret for many years. This story surpasses, to my pity and to my joy, what I could possibly create myself. It caused me to look at myself and those close to me in a different way. I’m afraid that this might happen to its readers as well." – Meir Shalev
France: Gallimard; Germany: Diogenes; Holland: Ambo/Anthos; Israel: Am Oved; Italy: Bompiani; Poland: Margines; Russia: Text Publishers; Slovakia: Slovart; USA: Pantheon/Schocken
“Sublime storytelling . . . Meir Shalev again delivers a fascinating novel.”
—De Morgen (Netherlands)
“A whiff of the Western surrounds the novel...Meir Shalev tells - with stark motifs and linguistic echoes from the Bible - of the curse of an evil deed, of revenge and of killing, the birth of guilt from history. But he also changes up the clichés of conventional gender relations. The violence always comes from men, but the women are the more potent, especially in matters of love.” --Carsten Hueck, Deutschlandfunk Kultur (Germany)
“Shalev’s style is unmistakable, and in this book he takes on themes that haunt your thoughts: consuming passion, madness, terrible violence . . . After reading Two She-Bears, you start seeing snakes everywhere.” —Internazionale (Italy)
“Shalev’s style is unmistakable, but in this book it takes on especially powerful urges, madness and terrible violence of the sort that you cannot forget." – Maya Sela, Ha'aretz
"The catharsis in Two She-Bears is a bloody one. The mythic senseless biblical tales reverberate in it, and even the story of the beginnings of Zionism is no longer sweet and pleasant… but rather a cruel revenge story of mythic proportions."
– Yiftah Ashkenazi, Ha'aretz
"The book's force is in its mythic strength, sizzling underground, dark and primordial…At the center of the plot…lies the basic raw material of the myth: man, woman, snake. Good and evil. Reward and punishment. The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge. An ancient curse the protagonist has brought on himself." – Zohara Ron, Globes
“A tale of murder and its reverberations through the years, a love story of deep physicality and sensitivity, a moving picture of male compassion, a brief overview of British Palestine and Israel over seven decades, Two She-Bears is a many-sided novel by one of Israel’s most prominent writers.”
--Maron L. Waxman, Jewish Book Council, (USA)
"Reading this book is indeed a tuned and appealing train ride, and the cooperation between Shalev and Ruta intensifies his strengths and uniqueness as an author: the sense of humor; the lack of fear of pathos, sentimentality and melodrama; the open and inquisitive approach to sexuality and homo-erotic attraction.” – Yoni Livne, Yediot Acharonot
When Eitan and Neta—father and son—set out into the hills near their mosheva in British Palestine, Eitan dismisses his wife, Ruta: “Hikes for guys . . . . Girls not allowed.” But when the last of these male-only ventures leaves Neta dead with a snake bite, Eitan retreats into stony silence, leaving no family voice except Ruta’s. Shalev and his readers rely even more on this self-identified “wild woman” when she discovers a death-dealing creature worse than a viper: her inquiries reveal that her grandmother’s secret lover—identified as a suicide by investigators—actually died at the hands of her murderously jealous Grandpa Ze’ev, who threatened her grandmother so menacingly that she struck him, taking out an eye. It is indeed Ruta’s two female eyes that penetrate the masculine mysteries surrounding Eitan’s later vengeance and that recognize the last horrific evidence of Ze’ev’s own distorted sense of justice. Seamlessly translated from the original Hebrew, this tale of love and bloodshed resonates with the primal passions of the biblical texts it invokes, while opening provocative new perspectives on modern questions about Israeli politics and gender identity. Darker than Shalev’s earlier A Pigeon and a Boy (2007), but just as likely to attract acclaim.
— Booklist, starred review, Bryce Christensen
“Unlike his previous novels, Two She-Bears is much darker, more violent and saturated with blood and vengeance…Reading the book reminds you sometimes of a well-written thriller – it manages to fascinate the reader, intrigue and sustain interest…Reading Two She-Bears is a pleasure. As an artist of the written word, Shalev succeeds in stimulating empathy in readers, in creating solidarity between them and the characters of the book, to take them back with the characters to the village, to its tragedies, secrets and loves.” – Ariel Horovitz, Makor Rishon
“In Two She-Bears Meir Shalev displays the abilities which have turned him into such a beloved and successful author – the rich and sensual language, the ability to maintain dramatic tension, the descriptive gift, the humor.” – Ronen Tal, Sofhashavua
“A very fluent story, nearly unstoppable…Ruta's voice is convincing, containing a wise blend of...intellect and impulse as well as an almost fanatical awareness, alongside an inability to comprehend certain things.” – Yotam Shwimmer, YNET