A Tale of Love and Darkness by Amos Oz (translated from Hebrew)
From a literary point of view, this was the most beautiful of the three. It is a masterpiece: comic, tragic, historical, contemporary, rightist, leftist, very layered and very deep. My favorite sentence: "I didn't want to write a book; I wanted to be a book." This is also the book I felt closest to, no doubt because of my 17-year immersion in Israeli life. Because of strange editing, or weird translation, or a subtle intent on Oz's part, there were oddly disturbing repetitions, but after a while I figured they were part of the memoirist's prerogative, like poetic license. Oz's original family name is the same as elswhere's paternal grandmother's maiden name, and they came from the same city...could they be related? And if so, then what? His memories of being an 8-year-old boy are frighteningly open: I haven't felt that 8-year-old-boy panic since Call it Sleep by Henry Roth (no relation to Philip). This is a book I would love to discuss with anyone who's read it. I plan to read it again.
The Plot Against America by Philip Roth
Another 8-year-old boy's memoir, this one fictitious. Roth's writing is so much like a New Yorker Magazine report that it's hard to believe the things in his three recent books didn't really happen (American Pastoral, The Human Stain, The Plot Against America). The background and foreground of an American Jewish family during the Roosevelt era resonated for me, but more distantly than Oz, probably because of where I live now. And again the beautiful vulnerability of an 8-year-old boy. This book was definitely the scariest of the three.
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
8-year-old boys must be this year's little black dress. The setting in Afghanistan is for me the most exotic, and yet in some ways very familiar now that I've settled in the Muddle East. I am always impressed by immigrants who write well in a second language. Although I knew what was going to happen from the start, it was really a page-turner and a Good Read. What I came away with from this one is the certainty that a boy's relationship with his father is just as complicated as a girl's relationship with her mother, in many similar ways.