One of the most beautiful and transporting novels I read last year was Meir Shalev’s A Pigeon and a Boy (Pantheon Books, 2007). In it, Shalev tells two connected stories of love and longing: that of Yair, a middle-aged tour guide in modern day Jerusalem whose new-found love helps him transcend a disintegrating marriage and profound grief for his recently deceased mother; and that of The Baby, a homing pigeon handler killed during the 1948 War Of Independence. I loved everything about this novel: I loved the characters, I loved the story, I loved the setting, I loved the exquisite romance that evolved between The Baby and a young woman via the love letters they sent by pigeon.
Ah, but the ending… I cannot say anything at all without spoiling it, except to say that two events left me with tears welling up in my eyes – one tragic yet lovely and perfect, and the other tragic and punch-in-the-gut surprising. Couldn’t it have been any other way? Couldn’t the author have made a different choice? Couldn’t he have just let this character – let us – be happy?
Except then, of course, it would not have been the same story. As much as my heart still wishes for the Sad Thing not to have happened, I wouldn’t really have changed it one bit.
-Jennifer M. Kaufman