"A Burnt Offering - a fable" about 47,000 words, 190 pages (now with clarifying chapter numbers within each of four parts - see the excerpt of opening).
This compelling and thought-provoking novel unites a version of the biblical fable, the Sacrifice of Isaac, with a tale about Israeli Intelligence when the country seems on the verge of being attacked by nuclear-armed Iranian missiles. Ari Schneider, the head of Special Operations, believes that he must act, even if as a maverick, to warn world leaders that they must act to stop the movement toward nuclear war. He discloses to them that his operatives in foreign capitals have received weapons of warning which he alone knows how to recall – ‘small’ tactical nuclear bombs from the Israeli arsenal.
His father, Rami, a retired diplomat and elderly survivor of the Holocaust, struggles to confront Ari’s actions. There is also a clandestine group of Palestinians whose leader plots to assault an Israeli installation in Jerusalem. And finally, in this moral fable, there is the Schneiders’ adolescent son, Moshe, who courageously confronts his father with knowledge he has gleaned from his scientist cousin in America about the horror of nuclear war. The unfolding fable advances in tandem with Ari’s undercover operations to create a unique and disturbing short novel.
As the action of the ‘special operation’ heightens, the parable becomes more terrifying and develops in mystery, complexity, and tragic intensity. In a series of confrontations with his wife, his son, and his father, Ari still resists despite the tension of self-doubt in him, and in the climactic encounter between father and son, Rami argues that the ages-old struggle marking the past of the Jews must also mark their future, and that nuclear weapons can never be used in a just cause. Ari holds fast, and in an ultimate attack on his son, echoing the Sacrifice of Isaac, Rami compels himself to tell Ari something about his origins that invalidates all his assumptions about his identity. The double bind of his fate collapses in on him, and with nothing more to hold him up, he suffers a suicidal breakdown.
Rami’s final monologue reveals his lie to his son. The old man is harrowed by the responsibility of how to act for peace in a world of extreme and pervasive violence; such are the conditions that Ari tried to face with his desperate acts and which now the world at large confronts.
Plot: This cerebral, political, and even emotional story probes the possibility of an impending nuclear war, with Israel and Iran at its center, and is quite thought-provoking. However, it proceeds at a distracting, uneven pace, possibly due to the rotating perspectives of many characters.
Prose: The narrative voice is fittingly solemn and thoughtful. The author utilizes beautiful phrasing and confident writing throughout the book.
Originality: Although there are plenty of stories about the current threat of war, small but intricate details and story arcs add to the originality of Melnick's writing.
Character Development: Characterizations and descriptions are thorough, providing in-depth insight into individual struggles and motivations.
Date Submitted: August 26, 2018