I reviewed this novel elsewhere on this site under its alternative UK title of 'Croc Attack', pointing out that this ridiculous title was more likely to give one the impression of it being a comedy thriller set in the swamplands of Florida. So I'm happy to report that, as in the USA and Canada, the original title has been translated as 'Almost Dead' because this actually reflects the whole point of the story.
And what a story it is. I'd say you couldn't make it up, except that in Israel you so easily could. If ever there was going to be a successor to Catch-22 then this would be it. Set in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and the West Bank the chapters are alternately narrated from the points of view of Croc, a hapless Israeli, and Fahmi, a would-be Palestinian suicide bomber. Gavron's brilliance is in weaving these two stories together in a way that is in equal measure sad, funny and horrific. For Croc the central premise is that in miraculously surviving not one but three terrorist attacks he becomes a national hero and a darling of the celebrity TV circuit. Paradoxically, however, this publicity has just made him more likely to die as the Palestinians would now like to put an end to all this Israeli euphoria at such defiance and finally squash his run of luck by killing him.
Whatever one's position on the Israeli-Palestinian question it has to be said that Gavron, an Israeli, has made all his characters, from whichever side of the narration, utterly convincing. This is because all the personal relationships between them are so beautifully drawn. And if one can occasionally be disoriented by the way Fahmi's tale is unfolded (arguably the book's only weakness) this is so much more than made up for by the surprising range of emotions that Gavron elicits throughout this marvellous story, much of it from peripheral characters.
This is a clever and powerful book, bursting with humanity and not a little tenderness in spite of the underlying grimness of its subject matter. There is much to ponder and, yes, enjoy. And long after I finished it I found that many of these splendid characters lived on - even, tragically, the ones that didn't.
The book is great but there's a problem - it's exactly the same as Croc Attack! The seller should have made that clear. I don't see the point why an author or editor is selling the same story under different titles. In fact this makes me rather angry!