Waking Lions


By Ayelet Gundar-Goshen

Read by Paul Boehmer

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After one night’s deadly mistake, a man will go to any lengths to save his family and his reputation.

Neurosurgeon Eitan Green has the perfect life — married to a beautiful police officer and father of two young boys. Then, speeding along a deserted moonlit road after an exhausting hospital shift, he hits someone. Seeing that the man, an African migrant, is beyond help, he flees the scene.

When the victim’s widow knocks at Eitan’s door the next day, holding his wallet and divulging that she knows what happened, Eitan discovers that her price for silence is not money. It is something else entirely, something that will shatter Eitan’s safe existence and take him into a world of secrets and lies he could never have anticipated.

Waking Lions is a gripping, suspenseful, and morally devastating drama of guilt and survival, shame and desire from a remarkable young author on the rise.




THE DUST WAS EVERYWHERE. A thin white layer, like the icing on a birthday cake no one wants. It had accumulated on the palm tree fronds in the central square, mature trees that had been trucked in and planted in the ground because no one believed that young seedlings could take hold there. It covered the local campaign posters still fluttering on apartment balconies three months after the election: balding, mustached men observing a crowd of voters from beneath the dust, some smiling authoritatively, some looking grave, each following the advice of his latest media consultant. Dust on advertising billboards; dust on bus stops; dust on the bougainvillaea straggling along the edge of the sidewalk, faint with thirst; dust everywhere.

And yet no one appeared to notice. The residents of Beersheba had grown accustomed to the dust, just as they had grown accustomed to all the rest – unemployment, crime, public parks strewn with broken bottles. The people of the city continued to wake up to dust-filled streets, went to their dusty jobs, had sex under a layer of dust and produced children whose eyes reflected the dust. He sometimes wondered which of the two he hated more – the dust or the residents of Beersheba. Apparently the dust. The residents of Beersheba weren't spread over his SUV in the morning. The dust was. A thin white layer that dulled the blazing red of the SUV, turning it to faded pink. Angrily, Eitan ran a finger over the windshield and wiped away some of the disgrace. It remained on his hand even after he rubbed it on his trousers, and he knew he would have to wait until he scrubbed in at Soroka before he'd feel really clean again. Fuck this city.

When he got into the car he was careful to keep his dirty finger from touching anything, as if it wasn't part of his body but rather a tissue sample he was holding and would momentarily place in front of Prof. Zakai so they could examine it together avidly – tell us who you are! But Prof. Zakai was many kilometers away from here now, waking to a dustless morning in the leafy green streets of Raanana, sitting in the comfort of his silver Mercedes as it made its way to the hospital through the traffic jams of the highly populated center of the country.

Racing through the empty streets of Beersheba, Eitan wished Prof. Zakai at least an hour and a quarter of sweaty waiting at the Geha intersection, with the air conditioner broken. But he knew very well that Mercedes air conditioners didn't break and that the traffic jams at Geha were nothing more than a sweet reminder of what Eitan had left behind when he moved here – the big city. Granted, there are no traffic jams in Beersheba, something he mentioned in every conversation he had with people from the Tel Aviv area. But when he did – a serene smile on his face, the clear-eyed look of a desert aristocrat – he always had the thought that there were no traffic jams in cemeteries either, but he wouldn't make his home in one. The buildings along Rager Boulevard really did remind him of a cemetery. A faded, uniform row of stone blocks that had once been white and were now bordering on gray. Giant headstones with the tired, dusty face of one apparition or another occasionally appearing in their windows.

In the Soroka Hospital parking lot he met Dr Zandorf, who gave him a broad smile and asked, "And how is Dr Green today?" He dredged up a battered smile, did his best to spread it across his face and replied, "Fine." They entered the hospital together, replacing the climate and time that nature had imposed upon them with the insolent defiance of an air conditioning and lighting system that guaranteed them eternal morning and endless spring. Eitan parted from Dr Zandorf at the entrance to the department and had begun a prolonged scrubbing at the sink when a young nurse walked by and remarked that he had a pianist's hands. That's true, he thought, he did have a musician's fingers. Women always told him that. But the only strings he strummed were damaged, truncated neurons.

A strange instrument, the brain. You never really know what sound you'll get when you press one key or another. Of course, if you stimulate the occipital lobe with a mild electric shock, the man sitting in front of you will most likely report that he sees colors, just as pressing on neurons in the temporal lobe will probably lead to the illusion of sounds. But while science is extremely partial to general, uniform rules, people are partial to being distinguished from one another. Two patients with damage to their orbitofrontal cortex will never have the courtesy to coordinate their side effects. One will behave crudely and the other will become obsessively cheerful. One will make tasteless sexual remarks and the other will feel an uncontrollable need to pick up every object in his path. Randomness, that seductive little whore, dances among the department beds, spits on the doctors' lab coats and tickles the exclamation marks of science until they bow their heads and become rounded into question marks.

"So how can we ever know anything at all?!" he once blurted out in the lecture hall. Fifteen years had passed since then and he still remembered the anger that had risen in him on that sleepy afternoon when he realized that the profession he was training for was no more certain than any other. A student who had fallen asleep beside him was startled awake by his cry and gave him a hostile look. The rest of the class was waiting for the remainder of what the senior lecturer had to say, which would most likely contain material for their exam. The only person who did not consider the question an annoyance was Prof. Zakai himself, who shot him an amused glance over the lecturer's podium. "And what is your name?"

"Eitan. Eitan Green."

"The only way to know something, Eitan, is to investigate death. Death teaches you everything you need to know. Take, for example, the case of Henry Molaison. In 1953 he underwent an innovative surgical resection of the areas responsible for his epilepsy, among them the hippocampus. You know what happened afterwards?"

"He died?"

"Yes and no. Henry Molaison didn't die because he woke up after the surgery and continued to live. But in another sense, Henry Molaison did die because from the moment he woke up after the surgery, he was incapable of creating even a single new memory. He couldn't fall in love or hold a grudge or be exposed to a new idea for longer than two minutes because after two minutes the object of his love or grudge was simply erased. He was twenty-seven when the surgery was performed, and even though he didn't die until he was eighty-two, he actually remained twenty-seven for ever. You see, Eitan, only after the hippocampus was removed did they discover that it was in fact responsible for encoding long-term memories. We have to wait for something to be destroyed in order to understand what had previously functioned properly. That is, in fact, the most basic method of brain research – you cannot simply dismantle parts of people's brains and see what happens; you wait for the case to do it for you. And then, like a guild of scavengers, scientists swoop down on what remains after the case has done its job and try to arrive at what you desire so fervently – knowing something."

Was that where the bait had been laid, in that lecture hall? Had Prof. Zakai known then that his diligent, fascinated student would follow him like a loyal dog wherever he went? As he donned his lab coat, Eitan laughed at his naivety. He, who didn't believe in God, who even as a child had refused to listen to any story that contained the slightest hint of the supernatural, had transformed that lecturer into a living god. And when the faithful dog refused to play dead, to play deaf-dumb-blind, the living god poured out all his wrath on him and drove him from the Tel Aviv Garden of Eden to this wilderness, to Soroka Hospital.

"Dr Green?"

The young nurse stopped beside him and reported on the night's events. He was suitably attentive, then went to make himself some coffee. Walking along the corridor, he glanced quickly at the patients' faces – a young woman choked with quiet weeping. A middle-aged Russian man trying to do a Sudoku puzzle with a palsied hand. Four members of a Bedouin family staring with glazed eyes at a TV set high on the wall. Eitan looked up at the screen – a determined cheetah was vigorously chewing up the bits of flesh left over from what had once been – according to the voiceover – a red-tailed fox. The fact that all of life is destined to be annihilated was never alluded to in hospital corridors, and yet here it was, openly presented on a TV screen. If Dr Eitan Green were to walk through the concrete jungle known as Soroka Hospital and actually speak about death, the patients would go mad. There would be crying, shouting, attacks on the medical staff. Countless times he had heard impassioned patients call them "angels in white". And though he knew that under their lab coats they were not angels but flesh-and-blood people, he didn't nitpick. If people needed angels, who was he to prevent them from having them? So what if a nurse had escaped a negligence suit by the skin of her teeth after pouring a medication meant for one parched throat down a different parched throat? Even angels make mistakes sometimes, especially if they haven't slept for twenty-three hours. And when family members, stricken with grief and anger, attacked a frightened intern or a terrified specialist, Eitan knew that they would have attacked real angels the same way, would have torn the feathers from their wings so they couldn't fly off to the golden kingdom of heaven while their beloved relative was being dispatched into the darkness of the earth. And now all those people who could not bear even a fleeting glance at the face of death were watching it serenely, even eagerly, as it spread fear on the African savannah. Because now it wasn't only the Bedouins staring at the screen – the Russian man had put down his Sudoku and raised his head, and even the weeping woman was watching the scene through tear-soaked lashes. The cheetah energetically chewed the remaining flesh of the red-tailed fox. The narrator spoke about drought. In the absence of rain, the animals on the savannah would begin to eat their young. Everyone at the neurosurgery department desk was riveted by the rare description, given by the narrator, of an African lion devouring its cubs, and Eitan Green knew with all his heart that it wasn't for morphine that he had to thank the gods of science, but for the 33-inch Toshiba.

Four years earlier, a bald woman patient had called him a cynic and spat in his face. He could still remember the sensation of the saliva running down his cheek. She was a young woman, not especially attractive. But she walked around the department with a certain majesty, other patients and nurses unconsciously moving aside to let her pass. One day, when he visited her on morning rounds, she called him a cynic and spat in his face. He tried in vain to understand what had caused her to do that. During earlier examinations, his questions had been matter-of-fact and her replies brief. She had never spoken to him in the corridor. And it was because he could find no reason that the incident upset him. Against his will, he was drawn into magical thinking about blind people who see clearly, bald women whose approaching death equips them with a sort of sixth sense. That night, in the double bed whose sheets smelled of semen, he had asked Liat, "Am I a cynic?"

She had laughed, and he was hurt.

"That bad?"

"No," she said, and kissed the tip of his nose, "no more than anybody else."

And he truly wasn't a cynic. No more than anybody else. Dr Eitan Green didn't grow more – or less – tired of his patients than doctors in the department usually did. And yet he had been banished beyond the sea to a land of dust and sand, driven from a hospital in the bustling heart of the country to the desolate concrete wilderness of Soroka. "You idiot," he whispered to himself as he struggled to revive the wheezing air conditioner in his office, "You naive idiot." Because what else but idiocy would push a medical prodigy into a head-on confrontation with his boss? What else but sheer idiocy would lead him to insist that he was right when his boss had warned him to watch his step? What new forms of idiocy had the medical prodigy invented when he banged on the desk in a pale imitation of assertiveness and said, "It's bribery, Zakai, and I'm going to blow the whistle on it." And when he went to the hospital director and told him about the envelopes of money and unscheduled emergency operations that followed, had he really been stupid enough to believe the expression of surprise in his eyes?

And worst of all, he would do it again. All of it. In fact, he had almost given a repeat performance when he found out, two weeks later, that the only action the hospital director had taken was to arrange his transfer.

"I'm going to the media," he had told Liat."I'll make so much noise that they won't be able to bury it."

"Fine," she said, "right after we pay for Yaheli's nursery school, the car and the apartment."

Later, she'd say that it was his decision to make, that she would support him in whatever path he chose. But he remembered how the brown of her eyes had turned instantly from honey to hard chestnut, remembered how she had tossed and turned in bed that entire night, struggling in her dreams with horrors whose nature he could guess at. The next morning he went into the hospital director's office and agreed to the transfer.

And three months later, here he was, in the whitewashed house in Omer. Yaheli and Itamar played on the grass. Liat considered where to hang the pictures. And he stood and looked at the bottle of whiskey the department members had given him as a farewell present, not knowing whether to laugh or cry.

In the end, he had taken the bottle to the hospital with him and put it on the shelf among his diplomas. After all, like them, it symbolized something. An era that had come to an end, a lesson he had learned. If he was lucky enough to enjoy a few moments of peace between patients, he took the bottle off the shelf and studied it, dwelling on the card. "To Eitan, Good Luck." The words seemed to mock him. He knew Prof. Zakai's handwriting very well, small Braille scribbles which, during Eitan's time in medical school, had brought students to tears. "Could you explain what you wrote?" "I prefer that you, young lady, learn to read." "But it's not clear." "Science, ladies and gentlemen, is an unclear subject." And everyone would bend their heads and write, storing up their anger for particularly venomous end-of-year feedback forms, which never changed anything. The following year, Prof. Zakai returned to stand in the lecture hall, his handwriting on the blackboard a series of indecipherable pigeon droppings. The only person happy to see him was Eitan. Slowly, painstakingly, he learned to puzzle out Prof. Zakai's scrawl, but the professor's character remained an enigma to him

"To Eitan, Good Luck." The card hung on the neck of the whiskey bottle in an eternal embrace that sickened Eitan. Several times he had contemplated tearing it up and throwing it into the waste basket, perhaps even ridding himself of the bottle altogether. But he always stopped himself at the last minute, concentrating on Prof. Zakai's words exactly as he'd concentrated on solving a complicated equation when he was a schoolboy.


He was working too much that night, and he knew it. His muscles ached. The cups of coffee lost their effect after half an hour. Behind his hand, the yawns threatened to swallow up the entire waiting room. At eight o'clock he called to say goodnight to his kids, and he was so tired and irritable that he hurt Yaheli's feelings. The boy asked him to make horse sounds and he said, "Not now" in a tone that frightened both of them. Then Itamar took over the conversation, asked how things were at work and whether he'd be home late, and Eitan had to remind himself that his perceptive older son wasn't even eight yet. While speaking to Itamar, he heard Yaheli sniffing in the background, probably trying to keep his big brother from hearing that he was crying. After the conversation, Eitan was even more tired than before, and feeling very guilty.

He almost always felt guilty when he thought about his children. No matter what he did, it felt like too little. There was always a chance that it would be this particular conversation, in which he adamantly refused to make horse sounds, that Yaheli would remember years later. After all, it was exactly that kind of thing he himself remembered from the time he was Yaheli's age – not all the hugs he'd received, but the ones he hadn't. Like the time he burst into tears during a tour of his father's lab at Haifa University and his mother simply stood there with all the other visitors and whispered that he should be ashamed of himself. Or perhaps she had actually hugged him later. Or taken a five-shekel note out of her wallet as a substitute for a hug and sent him to buy a popsicle as consolation. It didn't matter. He didn't remember that. Just as he didn't remember all the times he'd jumped off the tree in the yard and the ground had received him gladly, but only the one time he'd landed on it with a crash and broken his leg.

Like all fathers, he knew that it was inevitable, that he was destined to disappoint his son. But like all fathers, he harbored a secret hope that perhaps not. Perhaps that wouldn't happen with them. Perhaps he would manage to give Itamar and Yaheli exactly what they needed. Yes, children cry sometimes, but with him they would cry only when they really had to, because they had failed, not because he had.

He walked down the department corridor, under the frozen flames of the fluorescent lights, and tried to think about what was happening at home now. Itamar was in his room, lining up dinosaurs according to size. Yaheli had most likely calmed down by now. That child was like Liat, heated up quickly and cooled down just as fast. Not like Eitan, whose anger was like a Sabbath hotplate: you turn it on and don't turn it off for two days. Yes, Yaheli had already calmed down and was sitting on the couch now watching March of the Penguins on TV for the thousandth time. Eitan knew that film by heart. The narrator's jokes, the musical theme, even the order of the final credits. And he knew Yaheli's reactions equally well: when he would laugh, when he would recite a favorite punchline along with the narrator, when he would peer at the screen from behind a pillow. The funny parts made him laugh every time, and the scary parts scared him every time, and that was strange, because how many times can you laugh at a joke you already know, and how scared can you be at the sight of a sea lion's ambush if you already know for sure that in the end the penguin will outwit the sea lion and escape? And yet, the moment the sea lion appeared, Yaheli dived behind the pillow, where he observed from a distance what was happening to the penguin. And Eitan would watch him watching the penguin, wondering when he would finally tire of that video, wondering when children stop asking for the familiar all the time and begin to ask for something new.

On the other hand, how much fun and how comfortable it was to know already halfway through the film just how it was going to end. The dangerous storm at the 32nd minute became so much more bearable when you knew that it would die down at the 43rd minute. Not to mention the sea lions, the seagulls and all the other evil creatures that stared covetously at the egg laid by the penguin queen but never managed to get it. And when the sea lion's ambush finally failed, as he knew it would, Yaheli would cheer, emerge from behind the pillow and say – Daddy, can I have some chocolate milk?

Of course you can. In the purple cup – he wouldn't drink from any other. Three teaspoons of Chocolit powder, mix well so there are no lumps, remind Yaheli that if he drinks it now, there won't be any chocolate milk later because it's not healthy. Knowing that in two hours he'd wake up and ask for it again. And there was a good chance that he'd get it, because Liat couldn't cope with that crying of his. He asked himself why he actually could. Was it because he was such a brilliant educator, such an authoritative and consistent father, or was it something else?

He had fallen in love with Itamar right after he was born. With Yaheli, it took time. He didn't talk about it. It wasn't the sort of thing you say about your children. About women, yes. For example: we've been dating for a month and I still haven't fallen in love with her. But when it's your child, you're supposed to love him right then and there. Even if you don't know him yet. With Itamar, it really was like that. Even before they washed him, before he saw his face clearly, he had already made room in his heart for him. Perhaps because during the weeks preceding the birth, all he did was make room for him. Room in the closet for his clothes, room in the cabinets for his toys, room on the shelves for his diapers. And when Itamar finally arrived, he slipped into that place as naturally as possible, settled in there and didn't move.

Or at least that's how it was for Eitan. It had been a bit more difficult for Liat. They agreed that it was because of the pain and the drop in her hormone levels, and that if she didn't stop crying within ten days they would see a doctor. She stopped crying in less than ten days, but it took time for her to begin smiling. They didn't talk about it because there was nothing to talk about, but they both knew that Eitan had loved Itamar immediately and Liat had joined him two weeks later. And that with Yaheli it had been the opposite. But the question always remained: did the parent who joined later, with a slight delay, catch up with the other parent's love in a guilty, panting run? Did that parent really walk at the same pace now, or was he still lagging behind?


Six hours later, when they finally managed to stabilize the injured victims of a road accident in the Arava, he was able to take off his lab coat at last.

"You look wiped out," the young nurse said. "How about sleeping here?"

Eitan was too tired to contemplate the hidden meaning that did or didn't lie behind her words. He thanked her politely, washed his face and went out into the night air. With the very first step, he felt what nineteen hours of air conditioning had made him forget: oppressive, dusty desert heat. The gentle humming in the hospital corridors – a muted symphony of beeping monitors and pinging elevators – was abruptly replaced by Beersheba night sounds. The crickets were too hot to chirp. The alley cats were too dry to mew. Only the radio in an apartment across the street doggedly screeched a familiar pop song.

Through the hospital gate Eitan could see an empty parking lot, and he dared to hope that someone had stolen his SUV. Liat would be furious, of course. She'd start pulling strings, curse the Bedouins in her inimitable fashion. Then the insurance money would arrive and she'd demand that he buy a new one. But this time, he'd tell her no, the "no" he hadn't had the courage to say then, when she'd insisted on getting him a special treat to celebrate his transfer. She'd said "treat", not "compensation", but they both knew it was the same thing. "We'll plow through the dunes around Beersheba in it," she'd said, "you'll do a doctorate in all-terrain driving." It sounded almost right when she said it, and during the first few days of packing up he still consoled himself with thoughts of sharp inclines and steep slopes. But when they arrived in Beersheba Liat became immersed in her new job, and Saturday SUV outings seemed further away than ever. At first, he'd still tried to persuade Sagi and Nir to join him, but after he left the hospital they spoke less and less, until the very idea of spending time together began to seem strange. The red SUV quickly grew accustomed to its shift from wild wolf to domesticated poodle, and apart from the slight growl it emitted when he accelerated suddenly on the way out of Omer, it was like any other standard suburban car. Eitan hated it more from week to week, and now – seeing it behind the guard's booth – he could barely control his urge to kick the bumper.

When he opened the door, he was astonished to realize that he was wide awake. His last reserve of noradrenaline began to pump now from some forgotten shelf in his brain, sending a new, unexpected spurt of energy through his body. The full moon above him glowed with the whiteness of promise. When he started the SUV, the engine growled a question. Perhaps tonight?

He jerked the wheel to the right instead of the left and sped toward the hills south of the city. A week before the move, he had read on the Internet about a particularly challenging SUV track not far from Kibbutz Tlalim. At this hour, with the roads wide open, he'd be there in twenty minutes. He could hear the engine's purr of pleasure as the speedometer crossed the 120-kilometer mark. For the first time in weeks, Eitan found himself smiling. The smile turned into actual happiness when, eighteen minutes later, he saw that the track's reputation was well deserved. The enormous moon washed over the white ground and the SUV's tires sped forward into the depths of the desert. Four hundred meters later, his brakes squealed to a stop. An extremely large porcupine stood on the road. Eitan was convinced it would run off, but the animal simply stood there and looked at him. It didn't even bother to raise its quills. He had to tell Itamar about this. He hesitated for a moment, unable to decide if he should take out his phone and snap a picture, but he knew it would only detract from the story. The porcupine in front of him was less than a meter long, and the porcupine he'd describe to Itamar would be at least a meter and a half. This porcupine did not have raised quills, but that one would be shooting quills out in every direction. This porcupine wasn't uttering a sound, but the one in his story would ask, "Excuse me, but do you happen to know what time it is?"


  • "Waking Lions offers a commentary on privilege and otherness, challenging readers to confront their own blind spots and preconceptions....Trained as a clinical psychologist, Gundar-Goshen examines her characters with the same formidable gaze. Nobody emerges unscathed....Gundar-Goshen is adept at instilling emotional depth into a thriller plot, delivering the required twists and turns along with an incisive portrayal of her characters' guilt, shame and desire, fluidly shifting between their perspectives....Readers will be rewarded by [Waking Lions'] exhilarating, cinematic finale. Skillfully translated by Sondra Silverston, Waking Lions is a sophisticated and darkly ambitious novel, revealing an aspect of Israeli life rarely seen in its literature."—Ayelet Tsabari, New York Times Book Review
  • "Vividly imagined, clever, and morally ambiguous....[Waking Lions] is a smart and disturbing exploration of the high price of walking away, whether it be from a car accident or from one's own politically unstable homeland."
    Maureen Corrigan, National Public Radio's "Fresh Air"
  • "Waking Lions, in a propulsive translation from Hebrew by Sondra Silverston, yokes a crime story to thorny ethical issues in ways reminiscent of Donna Tartt and Richard Price...it's a rare book that can trouble your conscience while holding you in a fine state of suspense."
    Sam Sacks, Wall Street Journal
  • "If there were a literary prize for nail-biting first lines, Israeli writer Ayelet Gundar-Goshen's second novel, Waking Lions would win...brave and startling."
    Financial Times UK
  • "Uncommonly complex, socially aware, and ethically ambiguous....plot is almost secondary to the political implications Gundar-Goshen explores - but what a plot it is, fuel for meditations on integrity and the layered guilt of the Israeli bourgeoisie."
    Boris Kachka, New York "7 Books You Need to Read This February"
  • "Earth-shattering."—Harper's Bazaar
  • "An intense moral thriller.... The twists upon twists upon twists in this story...will have readers yelping out loud. Waking Lions seems poised to catch fire."
    Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)
  • "Anyone who loves the magic of the printed word should read Waking Lions....Gundar-Goshen has earned, and deserves, a worldwide audience, and this magnificent novel may well be the vehicle for that."—Joe Hartlaub, Bookreporter
  • "It pulled me right in. In just 18 words, a spell was cast and broken, and I couldn't wait to go on."

    Moira MacDonald, Seattle Times
  • "Gripping....twists and turns like a thriller."
    Sunday Times UK
  • "It is a literary achievement for its page-turning exploration of inconvenient empathy and culpability. Gundar-Goshen's descriptions of pain and medicine are tender and startling, but perhaps the novel's greatest strength is the way it considers how we look at each other, the power of our gaze on strangers and on those we love. It's about seeing and being seen, about pride and power. This is a brave novel, socially aware and truly unforgettable."
    Cat Acree, BookPage
  • "Waking Lions is immensely suspenseful. Ayelet Gundar-Goshen's alarmingly realistic and superbly written novel will leave readers wondering what they might be capable of under duress, and what makes a good person do such an awful thing--and if a marriage can survive such deception. The difficult decisions faced by Eitan, Liat and the Eritrean community are haunting."
    Jessica Howard, Shelf Awareness (starred review)
  • "Ayelet Gundar-Goshen's novel, Waking Lions, is more than your guilty-pleasure thriller - although its twists and turns will keep you in suspense until the last page."
    E. Ce Miller, Bustle
  • "It's not every day a writer like this comes our way."
    Guardian UK
  • "A moment's inattention upends multiple lives in Gundar-Goshen's powerful thriller....The psychological complications match the plot ones and will please Ruth Rendell fans."—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
  • "....a work of great subtlety which wrenches at the heart of both the family and the state, and makes for compulsive reading.... [A] sophisticated, angst-filled thriller."
    Brian Martin, Spectator UK
  • "Mesmerizing....Smoothly alternating points of view, it uses the format of a thriller to study the almost unbridgeable gap between insider and outsider. The complex relationships between Israelis, Bedouin Arabs, and Eritreans may be unique to Israel, but that social dynamic will reverberate meaningfully with U.S. readers as well."

    Booklist (starred review)
  • "Extraordinarily assured. Its themes are daring....Waking Lions is a startlingly achieved novel, with all the page-turning appeal of a fine-honed thriller. Gundar-Goshen gives voice to the refugee population that haunts the margins of Israeli society, probing the very hardest of the hard questions, both universal and specific to Israel, with the finesse of the brain surgeon and the wisdom of the philosopher, both of whom know only too well that there are no easy answers."
    Natasha Lehrer, Jewish Quarterly
  • "Waking Lions is a classy, suspenseful tale of survival where the good guys and the bad guys are harder to distinguish than you might think."
    The Times UK
  • "Waking Lions has the type of seductive plot twists-a hit-and-run, a blackmailing scheme, a crime that threatens to rend a marriage-that, seemingly, only a fiction writer could concoct. But in fact, the 34-year-old writer, who lives in Israel, borrowed much of the premise of the story from real life."
    Daniel Lefferts, Publishers Weekly "Writers to Watch Spring 2017"
  • "A literary thriller that is used as a vehicle to explore big moral issues. I loved everything about it."
    Daily Mail UK
  • "It is a literary achievement for its page-turning exploration of inconvenient empathy and culpability. Gundar-Goshen's descriptions of pain and medicine are tender and startling, but perhaps the novel's greatest strength is the way it considers how we look at each other, the power of our gaze on strangers and on those we love. It's about seeing and being seen, about pride and power. This is a brave novel, socially aware and truly unforgettable."
    Cat Acree, BookPage
  • "Why should Jewish immigrants enjoy immediate citizenship in Israel, while African immigrants are detained or deported? Of course, these problems are not unique to Israel. Exactly the same arguments over immigration, on a much larger scale, are dominating the politics of Europe and the United States. It is surely for this reason that Waking Lions, the new psychological thriller by Israeli novelist Ayelet Gundar-Goshen, has broken out to become a worldwide phenomenon."—Adam Kirsch, Tablet Magazine
  • "An auspicious entry on the English-language scene for Israeli author Gundar-Goshen."
    David Keymer, Library Journal
  • "[A] suspenseful morality tale."
    Sarah Murdoch, Toronto Star
  • "In Waking Lions, the bad guys are the good guys, the victims are the perpetrators, and the ending is definitely not what you'll expect."
    E. Ce Miller, Bustle "15 Books With Plot Twists You Never Saw Coming"
  • "Gundar-Goshen transcends the genre of thriller...Waking Lions is a work of exquisite literary craft, a book that penetrates to the heart and soul of its characters."—Jonathan Kirsch, Jewish Journal

On Sale
Feb 28, 2017
Hachette Audio

Ayelet Gundar-Goshen

About the Author

Ayelet Gundar-Goshen is the author of The Liar and Waking Lions, which won the JQ-Wingate Prize, was a New York Times Notable Book, and has been published in seventeen countries. She is a clinical psychologist, has worked for the Israeli civil rights movement, and is an award-winning screenwriter. She won Israel's prestigious Sapir Prize for best debut.

Learn more about this author