"The Betrayers" by David Bezmozgis

Baruch Kotler is an Israeli politician whose extramarital affair was exposed by his political opponents after he refused to back down from his contrary position on the West Bank settlements.  Now, he finds himself fleeing the country with his mistress, Leora, to Yalta, the place of his youth.  But what happens there is something he never would have expected.

Baruch and Leora rent a room from a woman they meet at the bus terminal.  After settling in, Baruch discovers that her husband is his former friend, the man who denounced him to the KGB 40 years earlier, which resulted in Baruch being sent to a gulag.  Over the next 24 hours, Baruch is forced to deal with not just the man who betrayed him but those in his own life he has betrayed.  

The Betrayers, by David Bezmozgis, has been short listed for the 2014 Scotiabank Giller Prize and rightfully so.  It is an incredible story of fate, forgiveness, and love.  It is an insightful novel, one that tells the story of a specific group of people yet touches on universal themes experienced by us all.

If there was ever a book that would have you wondering, “could I forgive?” it is this book.  But this isn’t the only place it will have you thinking.  The concise writing doesn’t merely tell a story, it turns things back on the reader, getting them to reflect on the part that betrayal has played in their own life.

Baruch Kotler is by no means a perfect man.  When he refuses to change his stand on a political issue, he is blackmailed by opponents and his imperfections come to light.  He has betrayed his wife, his two children, and himself.  His solution is to flee.  But he runs straight into the one person who can stop him in his tracks.  Valodya Tankilevich had a choice to make.  To save his family, he had to give up his friend and because of his actions, his friend was imprisoned for 13 years.  While his friend became a cause célèbre, Tankilevich lived the rest of his life as a disgraced man.  

A story of the choices we make and the consequences we face set against the history of the Russian Jewish people, this is a remarkable story.  Of course this book was written before the instability in Crimea but it gives a readers a better understanding of the culture and politics of this area and adds more to the story we get from the media.  Timely and thought-provoking, this novel is very deserving of award nominations.


  1. After reading your review, I'm even MORE excited to read it! I can't wait to dig in :)


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