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Checkpoint by Lisa Saffron
Checkpoint
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Lisa gives an overview of the book:

 In occupied Palestine Two teenagers, a soldier and a suicide bomber, die. Two families suffer. Two communities remain divided. What happens when two mothers refuse to be enemies? Checkpoint, the new sociopolitical suspense novel by Lisa Saffron, is the story of ordinary people living in a conflict zone, each struggling to make sense of a situation where it’s not clear who is the victim and who is the terrorist. About the story: 2 October 2002 - the Shapiro family’s comfortable life in an Israeli suburb is shattered by a tragedy that sets each member on a journey of self-discovery. Easy-going Yigal, a corporal in the Israeli Defence Force, forms an unexpected alliance with Aisha, a fiery Palestinian teenager while Yigal’s unquestioning mother, Ruth, reconnects with her estranged friend, Vivi, who passionately supports the Palestinian cause. David, Yigal’s father,...
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 In occupied Palestine

Two teenagers, a soldier and a suicide bomber, die.

Two families suffer.

Two communities remain divided.

What happens when two mothers refuse to be enemies?

Checkpoint, the new sociopolitical suspense novel by Lisa Saffron, is the story of ordinary people living in a conflict zone, each struggling to make sense of a situation where it’s not clear who is the victim and who is the terrorist.

About the story: 2 October 2002 - the Shapiro family’s comfortable life in an Israeli suburb is shattered by a tragedy that sets each member on a journey of self-discovery. Easy-going Yigal, a corporal in the Israeli Defence Force, forms an unexpected alliance with Aisha, a fiery Palestinian teenager while Yigal’s unquestioning mother, Ruth, reconnects with her estranged friend, Vivi, who passionately supports the Palestinian cause. David, Yigal’s father, deepens his relationship with zealous settlers in the occupied West Bank and Orli, Yigal’s younger sister, makes a decision about military service.

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Chapter 1. YigalBoring. Boring. Boring. A year in the army and I end up at the most boring checkpoint ever. I want action, excitement, a hit of adrenalin. That’s what I was trained for. But no, the only action at this checkpoint is up with the clouds. Hey, I take that back. Today even the clouds are boring. They hide the sky in a half-hearted kind of way, like they can’t be bothered. Everywhere I look, there are places where the clouds get hazy and vague at the edges and the blue pokes through. I’m not on my own in this deserted, bleak checkpoint. There’s a girl with me. She’s pretty or would be if she smiled once in a while. We’d never met before we got here even though we grew up less than 20 miles apart. We’re gradually getting acquainted. There’s no choice really. Most of the time, it’s just the two of us here, stuck together like Siamese twins. You can’t choose your mates when you’re in the army. Our first meeting was wild, explosive. We fought a lot. She was expecting a different posting and took it out on me. As if it were my fault we were here. She drove me crazy with her yelling and blaming and having to be right all the time. I had enough arguing from my kid sister, Orli. The best thing about going into the army was getting away from Orli and all that arguing. So I was really fed up to find myself with another argumentative girl.We stopped arguing after a few weeks. Maybe it was only a few days. I can’t keep track of the time. Now she hardly says a word. Most of the time, we lie on the hard, dusty concrete pathway and watch the clouds in silence.At first, I felt relieved. I got into cloud watching too. Spent ages following clouds through their manoeuvres. I tried not to pay any attention to her. But it’s kind of hard to ignore someone lying right next to you who’s sending out hostile vibes. I can’t stand the silence. I’d rather be arguing than not talking at all. ‘Look,’ I say. ‘See that patch of blue. It’s getting bigger. Do you see?’She grunts. I wonder if she’s as bored as me. We watch the clouds peel back from the blue patch, exposing more naked sky. I remember the first time I flew in an airplane and saw clouds from above. I was seven years old. The tops of the clouds were so utterly amazing that tears came into my eyes. They were secret tears so my mom and little sister didn’t see. If my dad had been with us, he would have smacked me on the back of my head. He hated it when any of us cried, especially my mom. I wanted the window seat all to myself so I could look at the clouds. But Orli kicked up a fuss, screaming and crying. She was four. She always got her way by screaming. Mom made us take turns in the window seat. When it was Orli’s turn, she didn’t even look out the window. She only wanted to sit there because I wanted it. I was so angry I sulked most of the way from Israel to Baltimore. There’s a strange churning in my gut and my eyes are stinging. I blink and look up at the sky. Grey clouds are plastering over the blue patches. Now it’s a solid mass, like a lid on a coffin. I’m 19 years old and that fight with Orli still bugs me. How pathetic. I can’t believe how much I miss my bratty little sister.‘I miss my father.’ The words float by in a whisper. I wait for her to say more. The cloud is thinning out directly above us, hinting at blue sky on the other side. I want her to go on talking but I don’t know what to say that won’t set off another argument.‘He’s a good man. He never hurt anyone.’ Tears spill down her cheeks. The cloud has turned heavy and thick and a soft, dull rain begins. My eyes are stinging again. I look away. It’s all right for girls to cry. Not for boys though. ‘What’s your father do for a living?’ I’m not really interested. I just want her to stop crying. To my surprise, she answers. ‘He hasn’t worked since.. Not for a long time. He used to work in a grocery shop. He isn’t well. Hasn’t been well for years.’ ‘Oh. Too bad.’ That was a conversation stopper. We watch the clouds again. I hope they lighten up soon. But they don’t.‘My dad’s an electrical engineer,’ I say. She doesn’t even glance at me. I don’t get the impression she’s in the least bit interested in what my dad does. That’s okay. I’m not interested either. I’m not sure even my dad is all that interested. He never talks about his work. A few years ago, a teacher asked me what my dad did for a living. I can’t remember why. I remember being embarrassed I didn’t know. I went home and tried to get my mom to tell me but she said I should ask dad myself. Maybe she didn’t know. More likely, she wanted me and dad to bond. My mom has a thing about us bonding. By age 16, I already knew bonding was out of the question. Still, I stood in the doorway of the living room when Dad was reading the newspaper and blurted it out. He frowned, like he always does when I say anything, like he’s thinking what a stupid question. But he did answer. He said he was in charge of developing automatic test equipment and something else about investigating production faults. Then he changed the subject. The only time I saw him get real excited about his work was when he talked about his military service. He was in the Israeli air force working as a helicopter night vision field and lab technician and then he was in the reserves every year for a month. That stopped five years ago. Sometimes he talks about that and about his mates from the army. He still sees them but he never brings them home or takes us to meet them. Even my mom has never met them. ‘So what’s he like, your dad?’ she says. But before I answer, she shrugs and rolls away from me. ‘Oh forget it. I don’t feel like talking about our families. Not with you.’She’s so damn rude. I could thump her but there’s no point. I can’t get away from her. Not for long anyway and not far. Anyway, how do you answer a question like that? What’s my dad like? Well, he’s my dad. We don’t get on that well. We’ve got different personalities. He’s angry and disapproving. I’m easy going. We like different things. ‘Hey, I feel like talking, even if you don’t,’ I say to her back. I sit up and lean against a concrete pillar. ‘I’ll tell you what my dad’s like. Here’s a good example. Last year, he wanted to show how proud he was of me going into the army but he couldn’t think what to do to celebrate. My mom made some stupid suggestions. As usual. She was always trying to get me and Dad to bond. But we could never find anything we both liked to do together. Mom said I should choose and Dad finally agreed. So I took him to… to a .’ I crack up laughing. I must have been off my head to take my dad there.She turns to face me and glares impatiently. ‘Take him where? What’s so funny?’‘I took him to a night club in Tel Aviv,’ I say and can’t speak for laughing. It was a disaster if the goal was father-son bonding. Still I enjoyed myself. There was a great DJ and I saw a few kids from school. I had a good time dancing and drinking. I say out loud, ‘Dad was so out of place. Everyone was under 25 and there was my middle aged, nearly bald dad standing at the bar by himself, looking like a dirty old man. One time, he was surrounded by a group of girls pouring beer down his throat with beer pistols.’ I laugh so hard I fall back against the concrete pillar and gasp for breath.‘That’s disgusting.’ She sits up straight and looks down her nose at me, as if I’m some kind of degenerate, low-life.‘Oh, what! Are you a killjoy like my father? Or super-religious? What’s disgusting about it? Haven’t you ever been to a night club?’‘No, certainly not.’ She rolls her eyes, as if I’m an idiot even to ask.‘My dad had never been either. He acted as if it was an endurance test, an ordeal to get through, like in the army. Like he was being invaded by noise, attacked by toxic fumes from sweaty bodies and beer, forced into solitary confinement at the bar. All the way home, he sniped about the people at the club. Called them hedonistic and mindless. Said they didn’t care about anybody but themselves, they didn’t take anything seriously.’I sigh. Even if I hadn’t been drunk, I wouldn’t have bothered arguing with him. It was too ridiculous. I’ve always stayed cool around my dad. I don’t bother making fun of him and I don’t let him wind me up. I figure Dad and I belong to separate worlds and that’s the way it is. Orli, on the other hand, is like a caged pit-bull terrier. One poke by Dad and she’s snarling and foaming at the mouth, ready to bite his head off. In a lot of ways, they’re very similar to each other. ‘Is that what you’re like? Hedonistic and mindless?’ She’s still got a disapproving look on her face.‘No,’ I say. ‘Hey, I was having a good time. Being happy. Getting into the music. Why should I get all stressed out? But look, I’m not irresponsible. I’ve done what’s expected of me. I joined the army. So I don’t know what he was complaining about. He’s so bitter and critical. Do you want to know what he said when we got home from the night club?’She doesn’t want to know but I tell her anyway. ‘He said he hoped three years in the army would make me grow up. Well, it seems to have had the opposite effect.’ I glare at her accusingly and stomp off to the next concrete pillar. No, I don’t want to grow up to be uptight like my dad. What I want is to grow up to be me. Thick, serious clouds cover up the blue patches in the sky. Everywhere I look, the clouds are stiff and final. No blue pokes through. Like my life.

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Note from the author coming soon...

About Lisa

Lisa Saffron grew up in the United States and moved to England in her twenties where she raised her family and worked in parenting support, health research and women's health information. She belongs to a liberal synagogue and hosts a weekly programme on...

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Published Reviews

Aug.03.2008

The Israeli/Palestinian Conflict is not simply a battle between two opposing countries – it's a conflict between two groups of people who are close enough- and are– neighbors. "Checkpoint" is a novel of...

Member Reviews

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Aug.02.2008
Review by Mirian Walton and Alan Goter, Shrewsbury, England 24 April 2008 This excellent first novel authentically explores the motives and feelings...