“Dinner At The Center of The Earth” is an Israeli spy novel about the ever changing world of politics, loyalty and love. The story shifts back and forth through time and takes place in Israel, Paris, Berlin and indirectly in America from 2002-2014.
The novel begins with an introduction to Prisoner Z and his guard. Prisoner Z, an American Israeli spy, is in a prison in the middle of the Negev desert. His guard is a spoiled mama’s boy, whose mother is the close assistant to “the General” and former Israeli Prime Minister (fashioned after Ariel Sharon). Prisoner Z has been secretly imprisoned by the General and no one knows he even exists except the guard, his mother, and the General. The novel tells the tragic story of Prisoner Z and how he ended up a prisoner, as well as the story of the General, the history of his renowned military actions and his change of heart as he neared death.
Prisoner Z starts out as a dedicated Israeli spy, but certain chance (or maybe not so chance) meetings and relationships cause him to rethink his loyalties. After engaging in traitorous activities, he is transferred to Paris and becomes romantically involved with a waitress there, who of course is in fact an Israeli spy. Ultimately his penchant to easily fall in love caught him out into his hopeless imprisonment. Throughout his imprisonment, Prisoner Z writes letters to the General (the letters remain unanswered). In the meantime, the General has a stroke which leaves him in what appears to be a permanently in between space, where he reflects on his life, both personal and nationalistic.
The waitress/spy disappears for a while, but reappears later in the novel after having fallen hopelessly in love with a Palestinian. This relationship, seemingly doomed yet fascinatingly strong and hopeful, is a metaphor for the rest of the book. At the end, the general dies, Prisoner Z is forgotten and the waitress and her lover find a way to stay together at the Center of the Earth. The book is both hopeful and hopeless, but the ending left me feeling empty and unsatisfied. I think that might have been the point. This is a brilliant novel but it will not appeal to everyone. You can reserve it from the Cuyahoga County Public Library by clicking here.