That’s what she read

C. Jayne Trent

A review of All I Love and Know by Judith Frank

Heartbreaking. Of the words that come to mind to describe Judith Frank’s new novel—searing, brutal, redemptive, funny—if I had to use one word, that is the word I would use.

“All I Know and Love” by Judith Frank is the story of Daniel Rosen and Matthew Green, a happy couple in the peaceful world of Northampton, MA. Their community is upended when Daniel’s identical twin Joel and his wife Ilana are killed in a Jerusalem bombing. There is no will left in their orphaned children, six year old Gal and infant Noam. Shocked and grieving, Joel’s family rushes to Israel where they discover that where children are involved. Israeli law does not have to follow the wishes of the parents as laid out in a will. Rather, the courts will decide the fate of the children.

Ilana’s parents, devastated at the loss of their only child, feel the children should stay in Jerusalem with them, where they will raise her with religion. Daniel and Joel’s more secular parents feel they would be the best guardians for the children—Ilana’s parents are rigid, religious and Daniel and Matthew are gay. How can two gay men, together barely four years, take on the burden of raising children, especially when Matthew isn’t even Jewish?

Frank’s novel takes on homophobia, terrorism, fundamentalism, Zionism, parenting, sibling relationships, families, love and loss with tenderness, brutal honesty and an uncanny ear for dialogue. I had to keep remembering that this was a novel, the characters seemed so real. She paints an evocative portrait of Jerusalem, bringing alive the mountains, desert, and city—at once utterly foreign, yet familiar. She raises provocative questions about what it means to be Jewish, to be a parent, to be gay and to be human.

I’m not going to say how it all works out, but I am going to recommend that you read this book right now. It’s that good. And heartbreaking.