Gila Green's With a Good Eye
Gila Green, a Canadian-Israeli author of 6 novels, has written a psychological novel with suspense, a bit of romance and a well developed main character, Luna Levi, who confronts major dysfunctions in her home, with constant emotional and financial disasters on the horizon.
Gila returns to a Canadian character with Israeli/Yeminite roots. In this novel, Luna is totally Canadian, not traveling to or living in Israel. Her Israeli-Yeminite father’s influence on her provides an ability to speak Hebrew and be seeped in Sephardic and Yemeni customs and phrases.
Luna, 19 years old and moving into adulthood, is cast in the role of saving her family. She doesn’t want this role. She wants to escape to college, to normalcy, to building her own life.
Alas, not to be.
Her wanna-be actress mother, Judith, and her father, Nir, a former soldier with PTSD, are separated but not divorced. They come in and out of their children’s lives. Loving Luna and her brother Ronan in their own way, they are unreliable parents in every other way, leaving their children without food, with unpaid bills and without their presence. Both Luna and Ronan yearn for normal and supportive lives, while they are barely able to manage in their own situation..
Once, Judith had the lead in Alice in Wonderland and Luna attends a performance. “That was the last play of her mother’s she ever attended. Today it all seems like a dream, but Luna knew it wasn’t. She isn’t Alice and doesn’t live in Wonderland.” Her mother, however, lived in a fantasy world which excluded her daughter.
Luna cannot let go of her parents, even as she yearns to set up her own life far away from them. Gila shared with me, “I think it's extremely difficult to sever the bonds children have with their parents, no matter how much abuse, neglect, disappointment or other negative experiences they endure.”
Judith tries her hand at many businesses all with disreputable or criminal partners. She then leaves, off to another acting role with little or no pay, dumping the businesses in her teenage daughter’s lap. Luna consistently says no, wanting to go to college, have boyfriends, lead a normal life, but is thrust into cleaning up her mother’s messes, as she tries to do the “right” thing. Luna “wants to know why doing the right thing feels like walking into a trap.”
Enter Ian, a loving and supportive young man who falls in love with Luna. Luna trusts no one in her life yet Ian grows on her as he offers the unconditional support that she had yearned for.
Ian gives Luna a hamsa, a good luck token, which she treasures. There is a glimmer of light at the novel’s end, as we consider the title’s meaning. Most Jews and others from the Middle East are aware of a phrase warning people of the “evil or bad eye.” Luna’s father, Nir, frequently wishes that his daughter goes with “a good eye,” that luck and good fortune will be part of her life and future.
There is no “happily after” ending here. Gila wrote to me, “I wanted the ending to reflect the depth of Luna's experience. Too often in movies or novels, characters endure difficult experiences and…are… immediately and too easily resolved when in reality this is a process and often it's one step forward, two steps back….”
Will Luna inherit something positive from the insecurity and neglect of her childhood? With her hamsa and with a good eye, Luna has become a strong, resilient woman who may, in fact, be able to move with some hope for her future.
Yemenite Chicken Soup adds to the world collections of chicken soup with its distinctive use of hawaij. A spicy, rich, comfort food perfect for cold wintry days with warm pitah on the side.