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Buy Me a Heaven Tonight - A Book Review

Buy Me a Heaven Tonight
By Ruth Beker
Self-published 2018. 260 pages
NIS 149 from all bookshops
Reviewed by Judith Cooper-Weill

This immaculate production Buy Me a Heaven Tonight is a tribute to perseverance and courage as well as an expression of boundless love holding a family together.

Ruthie Beker was a shy person and had to draw on inner faith and strength to raise her four children when she was suddenly widowed over thirty years ago. I first met her about a decade after this wrenching event ("till death do you part was no lie after all"), presiding generously and devotedly over her wonderfully-united family. They had the largest dining table I had ever seen in a private house; the rest waited patiently for the grown children to undertake renovations which eventually transformed Ruthie's home in Kfar Shmaryahu into a light-filled space with a dream of a garden.

As with Elizabeth Barrett Browning, illness recently confined Ruthie to bed for several years; she lived for news brought by steady visitors and her cherished sister while overseeing the book project and the arrival of grandchildren.

Orly Robinzon succeeded in fully empathizing with Ruthie's unique way of looking at the world and thus was able to select from the voluminous material stuffing drawers and files and boxes – "I write because I must" -- a lifetime of committing thoughts and yearnings and observations to paper, and so to create a fascinating volume to share all these riches with the reader.

Whereas Ruthie was constantly rewriting her lines – "little parcels of words I remember" – she treated her photographs differently, claiming they defied alteration after "choosing the moment".

The book displays the images in such a way that the reader experiences a crescendo of colors and feelings while following the wistful life of a poet with a wry humor - "I can still wrap up a man or two" - which somehow comes through in the Hebrew translation – "Buy me a Heaven tonight, Somewhere, there must be one for sale"

Lots of seascapes, fishing nets, wildflowers and whimsy, scenes of lonely deckchairs, gaping shutters, faded decorations on other people's walls…

"Love was never a proper balance sheet, no clear entries of debits and credits, just a mess of figures scribbled in stubby pencil, no auditor can ever make right."

Ruthie considered that Israel was a miracle beyond all judgement or criticism.The move here from Seattle fulfilled her though she kept strong ties with the US.She surrounded herself with prettiness but her compositions always have a sting in the tail.

"Get out of that coach Cinderella, the ride is over, the clock struck twelve, love will never catch up with you".

Orly invites the reader to take a deep breath…

Barrett Browning wrote in "Aurora Leigh":

The Greeks said grandly in their tragic phrase,
'Let no one be called happy till his death.'
To which I add,
Let no one till his death, be called unhappy.
Measure not the work
Until the day's out and the labour done,

Then bring your gauges. 

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Saturday, 16 October 2021

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