The World Without You

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May 30, 2012

Nava Lubelski

The following is an excerpt from Joshua Henkin’s new novel, The World Without You, to be published by Pantheon Books on June 19.

They’re over the Atlantic, having commandeered a whole row, Noelle with two boys on one side, Amram with the other two across the aisle, though Akiva, their eldest, always animated and voluble, especially when given the chance to speak English, has seated himself a row back next to a retired couple from Phoenix returning from their annual pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Noelle recognizes the type. UJA dinners and Israel Bond drives. Grandchildren’s bar mitzvahs in hotel ballrooms bedecked with palm trees (more bar than mitzvah, Noelle calls these affairs), not so different from the bar mitzvahs she used to attend, but she had no say in that, and now, twenty- five years later, she can afford to be disdainful. She has earned it, she thinks, sitting with her four sons on the flight to Boston, models of decorum, when she knows what boys are like, Israeli boys especially, soldiers as soon as they emerge from the womb.

Akiva is eight, Yoni six, Dov five, and Ari three; it’s not so different from Noelle and her sisters. Her mother likes to say the girls were in diapers at the same time, testament, it would seem, to how close they were spaced, or perhaps to the fact that Clarissa still wore diapers at night when she was five. There must be some lesson in this, some predictor of what Clarissa has become, but Noelle can’t find any. She doesn’t wish to make too fine a point of this, but when she sees her children now, Akiva a row back chatting amiably in his unaccented English, she and Amram surrounded by the other boys, knit yarmulkes on their heads, their prayer fringes sticking out from under their T- shirts, she feels that she has outdone her mother, four small children at once instead of three— Leo came along later— no difficulty with toilet training.

The flight attendant comes down the aisle dispensing snacks, and the boys negotiate over chips, pretzels, and cookies.

“Let them have what they want,” Amram says.

“Who’s stopping them?” says Noelle.

“Where are we now?” Yoni asks.

“Over the ocean,” she says.

“But where?”

“He wants a country,” says Dov.

“There are no countries in the ocean,” Yoni says.

Akiva says, “Three- quarters of the earth is covered by water.”

“What difference does that make?” Yoni says.

“The difference is, it’s true.” Akiva is only eight, but he thinks of himself as a surrogate parent. When the family sings zemirot during Shabbat dinner, the boys take turns sitting on Amram’s lap. Amram thumps his legs up and down and folds over the edges of the boys’ yarmulkes, trying to make them resemble cowboy hats. Friday night at the rodeo: you sing zemirot, you get to ride the bull. Once, when Amram was away, Akiva sat in his father’s seat and drank from his kiddush cup, and when it came time to sing zemirot he said, “Okay, boys, who wants to sit on my lap?”

Yoni drops a pretzel into Dov’s soda, and Dov punches him in the thigh.

“Boys!” Noelle says.

Yoni drops another pretzel into Dov’s soda.

“Would you take over for me?” Noelle says to Amram.

“Doing what?”


“I’m right here.”

“You’re right here,” she says, “but you’re reading.”

“They’re boys, Noelle. Let them be.” Amram closes his magazine.

But a minute later, he’s reading again.

“I just want you involved.”

“I am involved.”

“Listen to me, Amram. Step up to the plate.”

Dov says, “Eema and Abba are fighting again.”

Dov’s right, Noelle thinks. The past few months, she and Amram have been arguing more and more. Amram complains that he has spent the last year listening to stories about Leo, hearing her describe a relationship he never knew existed. Because the relationship Noelle lays out on the phone to her friends, the stories she tells their boys, the memories she says assault her, they’re a kind of fiction, Amram believes. How often did they see Leo in all their years in Israel? They didn’t even go to his wedding, because Thisbe wasn’t Jewish. Originally, Amram was threatening not to come on this trip, but Noelle convinced him to join them. It’s her brother’s unveiling: how can he miss it? And Amram is a buffer when she’s with her family; his simple presence reminds her that she lives six thousand miles away, because when she sees her parents and sisters, when they’re up in Lenox as they will be soon, another July Fourth, it’s easy to forget that her life is elsewhere. It’s how she felt when she first left home, what everyone must feel that first Thanksgiving back from college, except she’s thirty- seven now and she still feels it. Sometimes she thinks that’s why she moved to Israel: to put enough distance between her and her family. She recalls Abraham and Lot. Behold, all the land is before you. If you go left I will go right, and if you go right I will go left. She rests her head against the window, trying to fall asleep, but the vibrations of the plane are too disruptive. So she leans the other way and, arranged like this, her head covered in a kerchief as it always is, she manages to fall asleep.

She’s woken by the sound of carts rolling down the aisle. “More food?” she says sleepily.

“It’s a Jewish airline,” Amram says. He used to work for a catering company, and the reigning wisdom was, a third more food for a Jewish event, a third less drink.

Reflexively, she checks the wrapping for kosher certification, though she doesn’t need to: all the food on El Al is kosher. Years ago, El Al used to fiy on Shabbat, but no longer. Which is how it should be, Noelle thinks; Israel is a Jewish state. She knows what the secular say, that it’s the tyranny of the few over the many. But in a parliamentary system you have to negotiate, and it’s the religious the government negotiates with. The fact is, the Orthodox are becoming stronger. They have more children— most of Noelle’s and Amram’s friends have four— and almost all the new olim are religious, too. And they have the truth on their side; she’s not ashamed to say that.

Once, visiting the States, she took Akiva, who was four at the time, to see the Christmas windows at Bergdorf Goodman. She likes the tinsel and lights; Christmas doesn’t threaten her any longer. Still, she’s happy not to have Christmas forced upon her, and that day, when Santa Claus was sitting in front of Bergdorf and all the children were screaming out his name, there was a moment of silence, and a voice called out: “Who’s Santa Claus?” It was Akiva. That, Noelle thinks, is why she lives in Israel. So her children won’t have to know who Santa Claus is, so they’ll live their lives as God intended, speaking Hebrew and observing the commandments, so their own children will be Jewish, while the secular Israelis, who knows where their children will be, off to India and Thailand once they’ve finished the army, devotees of Buddhism and Transcendental Meditation, searching for meaning— of course they are, Noelle thinks— because being a secular Jew in Israel, of all places, is a hollow existence.

My sister the Hasidic Jew, Lily likes to say. The rabbi’s wife. Well, Lily can say what she wants to. Amram isn’t a rabbi, and they aren’t Hasidic. She and Amram both work, and their boys will serve in the army. They won’t spend their lives in yeshiva as the ultra- Orthodox do, expecting the rest of the country to protect them. Yes, she covers her hair, and she wears skirts and dresses instead of pants, and she won’t swim at the beach or pool when men are present. And, yes, her children go to Orthodox schools and they’ll marry Orthodox girls and marry them young. But don’t let anyone tell her she’s cut herself off from the modern world, that she’s placed herself inside a cloister.

“Abba?” Dov says.

“Be quiet,” Akiva says. “Abba’s working.”

Nava Lubelski

“Abba’s not working,” Noelle says. “He’s reading a magazine.”

That’s the other thing they’ve been fighting about. Amram lost his job, which was bad enough, but worse, he didn’t even tell her when it first happened. He kept going to the office for another couple of weeks; at least, that was where she thought he was going, until she phoned his office and discovered that he’d been fired. She’s angry about that— she can’t stand dishonesty— and also about the fact that he’s been fired again; they have four children to support.

The boys are speaking Hebrew to each other, and though she would normally object— English- only is the house rule— she allows them to go on. It’s vacation, she figures, and they’ll be in the States soon, where everyone speaks English. Her own Hebrew is fluent, but it will never be as good as her English is. In many ways, her children’s Hebrew is already better than hers. With Akiva, there are phrases in his homework she doesn’t understand, and he has to explain them to her.

It wasn’t like that for her growing up— feeling like she was better than her parents, especially at anything having to do with school. She would daydream all semester in math, then rely on her mother to help her before the exam, but they would always end up fighting, with Noelle in tears. Even now, Noelle remembers math, remembers all of high school, really, as a word problem with water pouring into the bathtub at one rate per minute and being drained simultaneously at another rate per minute and she had to figure out how long it took to fill the tub. These problems seemed designed to assail her: why couldn’t someone just put in the plug and the bath would fill up as baths normally did? Angry at her mother, abandoning her math homework to smoke a cigarette Noelle would say to her mother as she was leaving for the hospital, “Fine, you want me to fail my math test?” (Her mother, a physician, was a rabid anti- smoker; there was nothing Noelle could do that would infuriate her mother the way smoking did— nothing until Noelle became Orthodox and moved to Israel.)

“Believe me,” her mother would say, “I’d rather be home than going in to the hospital at three in the morning.”

“Rather be helping me?”

“Yes, sweetie, I would.”

Always the sweetie to taunt her, when Noelle understood even then that it wasn’t a taunt. She still listens for that word when she calls home from Jerusalem. It returns her to infancy; she’s nothing but clay in her mother’s hands. Take me back, she wants to say. Make me whole again. She wants to crawl inside her mother, to return to some vestigial tadpole state. Coming home from the hospital, her mother would find her asleep, curled into herself like dough, and she would wake her gently to study again because Noelle demanded that she wake her, although her mother insisted those extra few hours wouldn’t make a difference and what she needed most was sleep. (No one, Noelle thinks— not Amram, not her children, not her sisters, not Leo when he was alive— no one has ever woken her as gently as her mother did, the act of waking her as if an apology.)

It’s like the dream everyone has. You realize you’ve forgotten to go to class all semester and tomorrow’s the final in introductory Chinese. But for Noelle it’s not just a dream; it’s her life. She is, in fact, enrolled in introductory Chinese. She is, in fact, naked in school, always about to be discovered, because there’s something at the core transparent about her, the organs, the arteries and veins carrying the blood to her heart, just a body spread out for all to see, redheaded Noelle with the blue, blue eyes, fourteen years old and the prettiest girl in Mamaroneck High School. It’s where her family moved, to Westchester, when Noelle was thirteen because she’d gotten expelled from two schools in Manhattan and her parents thought if they removed her from the city they might keep her out of trouble. (That, more than anything, Noelle thinks, is why Lily can’t stand her. Lily never forgave her for banishing the family to the suburbs, for making her leave her friends and start over in a new school. Well, blame their parents, Noelle thinks; she didn’t want to leave the city any more than Lily did.)

Look at her, they would say, the boys on the football team and the swim team, Noelle’s own teammates, the boys who tried out for the swim team just to see her in a bathing suit. Why don’t you a wear a bikini, Noelle? Thinking about her at night in their beds, beneath the sheets they soiled, not washing them, not wanting their mothers to wash them, not wanting to wash Noelle out of them. You’re killing me, Noelle. Just thinking about you makes me come. Noelle lived for their voices, feeling she was nothing when the boys didn’t talk about her, that she didn’t exist at all. Noelle the nympho. The girl who couldn’t say no. When her mother was on call, Noelle, who promised her she’d be studying, was instead out with Campbell, the next- door neighbor’s boy, or Bruce Weinstein from around the block. She knew who was awake and who wasn’t, whose parents were out, could feel her way around the streets near her home, moving stealthily through the bushes, avoiding the occasional passing headlights, following her own internal compass. In basements and attics, behind locked bedroom doors, lovely Noelle, her hair sliding across her face, the almost soundless sound of it, like the almost soundless sound of Noelle’s panties dropping to the fioor. Man, that girl’s efficient, Casey Hopkins would say— Casey, whose father was a doctor at the same hospital as Noelle’s mother— and sometimes, hearing a parent come home late at night, the sound of others stirring in the house, Noelle would escape out the window.

“How ’bout we go rock climbing,” Noelle says, this to Mark Hathaway,

Noelle guiding Mark’s hand beneath her shirt, Mark, only thirteen, a year younger than she is. Noelle’s heart goes out to the boys like this, the timid ones, like birds, the peach fuzz on Mark’s cheeks, the two of them in the audiovisual room where Mark spends most of his time, because he’s vice chair of the AV squad, shining the strobe lights on the students during the productions of Guys and Dolls and Our Town. Noelle runs her hands across Mark’s body, the smooth hairlessness of him, thinking of her mother back in medical school sticking her hands inside a cadaver. Mark is used to shining the lights on others, only now, with Noelle, the lights are on him and he wants them off; he doesn’t believe in kissing a girl with the lights on. But Noelle wants to see him; she won’t do anything with Mark unless she can watch what they’re doing. “How ’bout we go spelunking,” Noelle says, and she guides Mark’s hand down the inside of her jeans under the waistband of her panties. And it’s true what the boys say about her, Noelle, just thinking about you makes me come, because Noelle can see it on Mark’s face, the mere anticipation has caused him to ejaculate, and it’s as if Mark has forgotten his cue and everyone onstage is looking up at him, and Mark, humiliated, runs out, leaving Noelle alone, and now Mark has told the rest of the school what Noelle said, How ’bout we go spelunking.

Nava Lubelski

Soon everyone is saying it, the boys chanting it in Mr. Hampton’s English class and along West Boston Post Road, waiting for their parents to retrieve them from band practice. They say it on the way home from synagogue and church, seeing Noelle in a white bikini in front of her parents’ house sunning herself on a lawn chair, placing a halo of tinfoil around her neck so the sun will refiect off it to give her a better tan, her red hair settling in the crevice between her breasts. Hey, Noelle, how ’bout we go spelunking. And Noelle just laughs.

She does it everywhere with these boys, even in her parents’ house, in her bedroom when they’re asleep, and once in her parents’ bed when they were out, with a boy named Stanley, who said, “Doesn’t it creep you out, doing it in your parents’ bed?” but Noelle simply shrugged. Noelle’s enterprising, the boys say. She makes do with what she can. She’s had sex standing in the school elevator, having learned how to stop the elevator between floors, elevators having always been her thing. (One Halloween, when her family still lived in Manhattan, she told Rudolph, the elevator man, he could go home for the night, and she, at twelve, took over for him, offering the tenants candy and other trick- or- treats as she took them up to their apartments) Her parents moved to Westchester to keep her out of trouble, but there’s plenty of trouble to be found in Westchester, Noelle caught with the construction worker, Jimmy, twenty- three, blond and handsome, with that tool belt dangling from his slim waist, and, frankly, Noelle is tired of high school boys, Noelle who feels in that instant when a guy is about to come, in that moment of rapture that crosses his face, that everything’s okay and somebody loves her. She stands in the glaring light, knock- kneed as a foal, saying through the simple stance, the fragile pose, Here I am, do what you want with me.

Noelle the slattern. Lubricious Noelle. Licentious. Lascivious. Wanton. Slut. Noelle knows these words, having taken Ms. Pickens’s vocabulary- building class, the boys in the hallway staring up at her from their Barron’s books as she walks insouciantly by. Noelle doing her best to study for the SAT, the way her sisters are doing, Clarissa and Lily off to Yale and Princeton while Noelle is going nowhere (Nowhere Noelle is how she thinks of herself, up in her bedroom, crying, alone). But then she reminds herself that no one is calling out her sisters’ names at night and no one is staying up late to help them with their math homework the way her mother is doing with her. But her mother loses patience with her; it’s hard for her to understand how school doesn’t come easily to Noelle. Her mother graduated number one in her class from the University of Pennsylvania and then again from NYU Medical School; like Clarissa and Lily, she has never failed at anything in her life.

“In that case,” Noelle says, “why don’t you take my test for me?”

“I can’t, sweetie.”

But in that I can’t, * Noelle’s hears *I would if I could, and she hates her mother for having no faith in her. “Go ahead,” she says. “Tell me you hate me.”

“How could you even think that?”

“You wish I’d never been born.” Then Noelle starts to cry, and she says, “Why do I fuck everything up?” because there’s something about her, she thinks, that’s at core unknowable, unlovable. Even now, looking back, she wonders what her parents could have done differently. They tried counselors and therapists. They sent her to a summer camp for troubled youth. They punished her. They bribed her. But nothing worked.

She was twenty- five when she arrived in Israel. It was random that she landed there, another stop on a round- the- world plane ticket. She figured she’d work on a kibbutz, wake up at four in the morning to pick melons, then sleep away the afternoons with the other volunteers. She’d fall in love with an Israeli air force pilot, get up in the morning and put on his uniform and march like a soldier through the streets.

“Look at me.” Ari has dumped his pretzel twists into his ginger ale and is admiring how they fioat.

“Ari!” she says, then thinks better of it. It’s a twelve- hour flight; at a certain point you have to surrender.

“They look like fish,” Ari says, peering into his cup of pretzels.

Dov says, “You put pretzels in soda and you get Goldfish.”

“Not the food,” Akiva says. “Actual fish.” He looks up at his brothers.

“Okay,” he says, “who can tell me what’s happening in Israel right now?”

“People are playing soccer,” Dov says.

“They probably are, but what I meant is, who can tell me what time it is?”

No one answers him.

“I’ll give you a hint. London is five hours later than Boston, and Jerusalem is two hours later than that.”

“In Israel, people are asleep,” Yoni says.

“The kids might be,” Akiva says. “But the grownups are eating dinner, or sitting at a café.”

On the screen above their seats, CNN is broadcasting NBA highlights, and Akiva snaps to attention. Like other Israeli basketball fans, he dreams that an Israeli will play in the NBA, though his real dream is to be that Israeli. He has memorized the names of the Israeli basketball players who almost made it to the NBA, and he has become a fan of the University of Connecticut, whose former star, Doron Sheffer, was drafted by the Los Angeles Clippers, only to accept a safer, better offer from Maccabi Tel Aviv. In a few years, the NBA will have its first Israeli player, but Akiva doesn’t know this yet, so it’s Sheffer who preoccupies him, Sheffer, who played for the University of Connecticut before Akiva was even born. But Akiva acts as if he’d been alive then, and at eight he, too, shares the burden of Sheffer’s failure. Akiva sees America as all- basketball- all- the- time, so when he meets an American who displays no interest in the sport he can’t help but feel that the person’s pulling his leg. He’s happy in Israel; it’s his home. Yet he believes that his parents, in moving to Jerusalem, voluntarily left heaven for the false consolations of earth. It’s as if in making aliyah they left the NBA itself, and so he inquires about their lives in the United States, thinking there must be something more than what his mother has told him, that they’re Jews and they want to live in the Jewish homeland. Occasionally, Akiva will spot a tall African American on the street, a former NBA player extending his career and given, as Israeli law requires, a quickie conversion, and he will ask the player for his autograph.

Nava Lubelski

But he’s always being frustrated. Just last month, when Noelle told him about their trip, he said, “Why does it have to be during the summer?” Meaning why not during the NBA season when he could watch a game live? Another time, Noelle said. But when Akiva persisted, she explained to him about July Fourth, American Independence Day. “A long weekend,” she said, though this year July Fourth falls in the middle of the week. Every weekend in America is long, she explained. It’s one of the things she misses most about the States— sleeping in late on Sundays when she was a girl, bagels and whitefish, afternoons at her parents’ house sunning herself in the yard next to her mother’s bougainvillea— because in Israel Sunday is a workday like any other day of the week. Leo’s yahrzeit was coming up, she explained, which made it a more complicated occasion. “Bittersweet,” she said, realizing as she said this that Akiva didn’t understand what the word meant.

But he pretended he did, or simply chose not to ask, which is what he always does when he doesn’t wish to discuss something. Noelle would like to talk to the children about Leo, but what is there to say? So many senseless deaths. Why compound them with another one? It’s Akiva she’s most tempted to talk to, because he’s older and might understand, and because he has memories of Leo, though it’s hard to know what he remembers and what he has gleaned from the stories she has told him and from the photograph of Leo, which stands on the shelf in their living room, her brother’s face looking down at them like some imperious god. But then she reminds herself that Akiva’s only eight, which was why when he said, “Well, I wish he’d died during the NBA season,” she let it pass.

“Is there a basketball hoop at Grandma and Grandpa’s?” he asks now.

She shakes her head.

“Why not?”

“Probably because Grandma and Grandpa don’t play basketball.”

There was once a hoop in the driveway, but Leo and his friends used to stand on each other’s shoulders and grab onto the rim, and eventually they brought it down. The summer before he died, there was talk of putting up a new hoop, but it never happened, and now the court remains as it was, the downward slope of concrete going to the garage, the bare wooden backboard with the holes where the rim hung, the discoloration from the wind and rain, from the years of balls shot against it. “The next- door neighbors have a hoop.”

“Will they let me use it?”

“Maybe,” she says. “If you ask nicely.”

Ari starts to cry. To distract him, Noelle devises a game that involves figuring out what portion of the trip has elapsed, but because Akiva is getting all the answers right, his brothers lose interest.

Then they’re on to the next game, this one led by Amram, which involves guessing which of the passengers are undercover; there are rumored to be soldiers on every El Al flight. But the boys go about this too loudly (“That guy in the brown pants!” Yoni calls out), and Noelle is forced to make them stop.

The children order Sprites, their fourth of the trip, and Noelle says, “That’s enough, kids, you’ve had too much soda already,” but the flight attendant has already poured the drinks, and Amram says, “It’s an airplane flight, a special occasion,” and the boys all cheer and gulp down their sodas before their father can change his mind.

A couple of people wearing yarmulkes walk down the aisle looking for men to help make a minyan, and Amram gets up and joins them. Noelle doesn’t count for a minyan, but she decides to pray, too, doing so quietly from her seat. Across the aisle, Amram is fiipping through a computer magazine. He’s in the software industry; at least he was until he lost his job. She still doesn’t know what happened— Amram won’t talk about it— but the specifics are almost beside the point. What happened is what always happens. Amram is smart, but he alienates people. Temperamentally, he’s meant to be the boss and he hasn’t accommodated to the fact that he isn’t the boss, so the real boss fires him. Noelle knows what people say behind Amram’s back. She feels embarrassed for him, and for herself as a result, but there’s nothing she can do about it. Amram is good- hearted and he’s misunderstood, but after this last firing she, too, has grown exasperated.

It’s an unspoken lie in their marriage, perhaps the unspoken lie, that Amram’s salary supports them. His paycheck certainly helps, and Noelle is hardly in a position to complain; she brings home barely any money herself, working two mornings a week as a teacher’s aide, though she knows that if she were paid for raising their children, she would— or at least should— be well compensated. But their own situation is tinged with regret because her grandmother, Gretchen, gave each of the grandchildren a substantial sum of money when they turned twenty- five, and Noelle frittered hers away. Strangely, the regret comes principally from Amram, who didn’t even know Noelle when she was twenty- five. He spends considerable time talking about what they would have done with the money if only they’d gotten it a few years later. Because they didn’t, they’ve been forced to rely on Noelle’s parents for help, which humiliates Amram; he feels his masculinity is being impugned. He has become frugal to the point of unreason, deploying tricks to save money, when the real trick he’s playing is to convince himself he isn’t accepting help from his in- laws. He buys the cheaper brands of yogurt and cottage cheese, gets the lachmaniot in bulk though the bread becomes stale quickly, and having salved his conscience and saved a few shekels, he places the money he’s accumulated into a piggy bank that he hides beneath his and Noelle’s bed. Noelle finds this endearing and a little sad; her husband, thirty- eight years old, veteran of the Israeli army, has a piggy bank into which he places his shekel coins, thinking of this money as a vacation fund, what will send the family on a tiyul to the Negev, when what’s in there will likely cover gas money and little else.

Yet at the same time, Amram will invest a thousand dollars in a company on a tip from a friend; he’ll shirk his responsibilities at work. Penny- wise and pound- foolish, the saying goes, but it’s more than that. Amram believes in reinventing himself. He has done this already by becoming religious, and he’s done it in other ways too, by shedding seventy- five pounds in a year only to gain the weight right back again. He believes in spectacular acts— miracles, essentially— not just by God but by man, and given the choice between caution and glory, he’ll choose glory any day. This is what has gotten him into trouble, and it’s what he and Noelle have been fighting about. Though they’ve promised themselves to stage a truce, for the sake of Leo’s memory, and for the sake of their vacation, which they’re hoping to enjoy. A flight attendant distributes wipes, and the boys shred the packets and wave the wipes in the air. Soon Yoni starts to shred the wipe itself before Noelle reaches over and stops him.

Another flight attendant hands out customs forms, asking the passengers are they U.S. citizens, are they Israeli, and Akiva, proudly, says they’re both, to which the flight attendant says, “Well, someone’s double trouble,” and she hands Akiva the forms for the whole family. A voice announces, first in Hebrew, then in English, that the captain is beginning his descent; they should be touching down at Logan in forty- five minutes.

“*G’virotai v’rabotai, *” Akiva mimics. “Ladies and gentlemen …”

Yoni and Dov get into an argument about whose English is better, and then they’re on to the question of whether there are more Americans or Israelis on the plane, a subject about which they also disagree. “Come on, kids,” Amram says, “we’re almost there.” Noelle, to lend support, points out how well behaved everyone has been on the trip.

“Ari didn’t even throw up,” Yoni says.

“You see?” says Noelle, who in the cab to the airport had to mediate between the brothers, none of whom wanted to sit next to Ari, thinking he would vomit on their laps.

At customs they get their visas stamped, and then they head over to the baggage carousel, which Yoni and Dov promptly mount. They ride around on it, pretending they’re luggage, until Amram insists they get off. Then they’re through the swinging doors and out into the terminal, where Noelle scans the crowd for her sisters.





Excerpted from The World Without You, on sale June, 2012, from Pantheon Books. Copyright © 2012 by Joshua Henkin

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