A Woman in Jerusalem

From The Christian Science Monitor:

Jeru A Woman in Jerusalem by Abraham B. Yehoshua

The woman’s name was Yulia Ragayev, a mechanical engineer from a former Soviet Republic, who had been working as a cleaning lady on the night shift. What’s not in her slim human resources file was that she was so beautiful that, even dead, she inspires extraordinary concern in others. No one noticed Yulia’s absence for the simple reason that she had stopped working at the bakery a month before the bombing. Neither the owner nor the journalist is willing to let the matter rest there, however. An irritated human resources manager finds himself excoriated in print, and then appointed the dead woman’s escort back to her homeland.

His irritation fades, however, and he finds himself increasingly moved by his quest and the woman who inspired it. As his mission gets more and more improbable, the manager (who is recently divorced and isolated from his only daughter) finds a subtle spiritual renewal as he crosses frozen rivers to reunite what’s left of Yulia’s family for her funeral. As if to make up for her anonymity in life, Yulia is the only one named in the novel. The symbolic device works to create the atmosphere of a fable or folk tale, but can also be somewhat muffling. This is especially true once the human resources manager heads for the nameless European country, which is a mishmash of peasants, frozen landscapes, and the remains of the Soviet military complex.

More here.