The Eyes of Abel: Daniel Jacobs
Reviewed by Fran Lewis
The beauty of Israel, the warmth coming from the sun as it is about to set and the stillness in the air are the setting for the first scene in this novel. As Roger Charlin and Maya Cohen sit together, discussing their lives, his stories and their feelings about Israel, Palestine and more, something will shake the foundation they are sitting on. The horizon and landscape will explode within seconds as bombs fill the sky, hotels and buildings collapse, a boat explodes and the world changes.
Thinking about his publication and his recent expose of Newton Oil’s corrupt practices, Charlin reflects back on his sources, his initial encounter with Maya Cohen and, even more, his feelings about Israel/Palestine. Their conflicts, his take on the situation and why he feels it has never been resolved. The Eyes of Abel answers these questions and much more as the author flashes back three months before this attack on Israel, describes another terrorist attack over San Francisco and shows what Charlin did to prove that terrorists similar to the one who got through in San Francisco can often fool security officers. But, what he learns will hopefully change things for readers and for him.
At the beginning of the novel, Roger, with the help of some of his colleagues, creates a new image for himself as an Arab traveling from America to Israel. This is part of an expose he conducts intending to bring to light how sometimes airport security is too tight, profiling certain people and singling them out for extra interviews or scrutiny based on race or nationality. What happens during his brief encounter, how and why the agent realizes he is using a fake passport and fake identity, just lets you know that the agents at El Al Israel are truly always on target. Investigating a secret energy project at Princeton we hear him speaking with his source, getting the information, and we understand just how creative he will get and how in-depth he will go to get a story and in this case the Pulitzer Prize. But, March 26, 2015 will change it all.
Trans Flight 144 goes down and the events spiral out of control as Roger Charlin immerses himself in more than just the story about racial profiling at the airport. Trying to find out more about Maya Cohen leads him to many discussions and negative viewpoints about the state of Israel. Maya relates her position, and her discussions with Charlin are heated and well informed and each side is vividly presented.
But, Roger is trying to create an article that will break open the fact that EL AL security seems to target those who are Arab or appear to be Arab. Is it politically correct to single out these people, shouldn’t everyone receive the same security clearance and why is he so concerned with Middle-Eastern people at the airport? But, meeting Maya will change it all.
Who is she and why is she really here? Within this complex plot there is much more to uncover. The Princeton Plasma Lab that has been lying dormant for so long now seems to have come to life, igniting more than just the possibility of a new energy program. Things get out of control for Charlin, as his relationship with Maya heats up when his reporter friend and mentor Ben Lampsky breaks the Princeton research wide open in an article that sets events in motion that cause lives to be lost. Israel comes into the limelight and the light shines but the truth is clouded.
Reporters, Charlin states, are supposed to report the truth and not worry who gets the story out first. Reporters, Ben states, report events as they see them, write the story through their own eyes giving the public what they want everyone to see and hear. Next, a video that has been doctored, or at least whose credibility is in question, sparks more negativity about Israel before the scientists at this lab are whisked away and hopefully back home before more lives are lost.
Project Sherwood, in Jacobs’ novel, “was a secret effort in the 1950’s during the Eisenhower administration to produce unlimited energy through fusion.” But, finding this information, taking a trip to Princeton and signing on to assist Lampsky to learn just who in the government is funding an energy program that was declassified decades ago, sets in motion catastrophic events of huge proportions. Observing several men walking dogs in the middle of the night might not trigger anything suspicious, except in this case the location is near the lab.
As the author elaborates about the program, discusses energy production, we learn more about what might be driving this program to be restarted and wonder why anyone would unleash it to the press and not protect its security. World energy would change and telling the world about it would do more harm than good. So, why did Charlin agree to find out more about the government and take the bait?
Since the TransCom 144 incident he has done nothing significant. Within Chapter Four, taking place Feb. 5, 2015, we learn about an Israeli Medical Team being killed and the details are graphically described. As his relationship with Maya intensifies, he finds out information about her that would change their fates.
Learning her real reason for being in America, knowing why she disappeared does not stop him from wanting answers and trying to find her. But not before he is interrogated by the Senate Congressional Committee when Lampsky breaks open the story about the fusion program and the possibility of an energy breakthrough.
When asked why he never filed his article about racial profiling, readers will be surprised at his response, knowing his negative views towards Israel. But, things change, perceptions differ and although he still has some misgivings about how Israel handles and responds to attacks, we see him becoming more open-minded.
As readers see Lampsky’s expose about the breakthrough at Princeton Labs and hear his words, they can decide for themselves if he intentionally endangered the scientists at the lab. Especially when they see what happens when Charlin explains Maya’s role and how this article affected the situation.
Throughout the next two chapters, Jacobs vividly presents many incidents, focusing on attacks on Israel soldiers and letting readers decide whether the reporter really told what happened or just what he or she thinks happened. We see slanted journalism in many cases, and incidents ignited by the press, with the aid of Youtube videos.
When interrogated by the State Senate Committee, Charlin realizes just who set him up, and why. His remarkable comeback and his response will impress readers. Just who in the government is pulling the strings? And why, when Charlin relates information regarding the killing of federal funding for fusion research does the tone of the hearing change?
A news bulletin relates events in Israel, global reactions and a world turned against a people just trying to live and survive! Near the middle of the book, there’s a section where we hear the voices of so many. A reporter’s vision or viewpoint of certain events and how different sectors of different countries react to the same incident. This underscores the role of media bias in shaping the Mideast conflict.
Hidden behind the walls of a nondescript building is a projector whose screen will emit slides that change the course of the world, change Charlin’s perspective about Israel and bring the fusion program to life. But, when secrecy is breached and Israel is in danger, what chance do they have? While he and Maya look bravely to the future, she formulates his next move. Will Charlin agree to the terms? Will he risk it all to help Israel, the United States, the fusion program and hopefully dismantle a war before it’s too late?
What happens next is explosive and the one person that is the key turns in different directions.
Background on Abel in the title: Abel was the second son born to Adam and Eve. Abel was the first shepherd, the first martyr in the Bible and murdered by Cain, his brother. This murder, of course, did not please God. Cain, a farmer, grew grains and vegetables and Abel was a shepherd tending the family’s herds. Brothers, who never got along, yet loved each other.
The family had to sacrifice something to God to atone for their sins. Abel was worried about making his sacrifice special to God and he offered his best lamb. Cain sacrificed crops from his garden, yet, God was not pleased with his offering. So, Cain asked his brother to walk with him and struck him down to the ground and killed him.
As with Abel, other countries see her as favored by the United States and other countries, and thus not punished for her violence and retaliation. So other nations feel justified in attacking Israeli civilians.
Cain was only concerned about getting caught and not the consequences of his actions, but they caught up to him over time. The ending of The Eyes of Abel, you might say, parallels life in the fact that we often have to deal and live with our choices and face the consequences within ourselves. What happens at the end is quite explosive, thought provoking and proves that while we teach children to think before they act, adults don’t always do the same. The description of the lattice is quite extraordinary; the events of March 26th will burn within Charlin and Maya’s, and readers’ minds forever.
Decide for yourself who is right and who needs to understand: too many Cains in the world and not enough Abels to provide the stability needed to protect everyone.
Israel is here to stay. She will not give up and In the Eyes of Abel, in the Eyes of the People of Israel, we see hope for freedom for everyone and someday peace within the Mideast and the world. This is one powerful novel that will create much discussion and controversy over the material offered. It’s definitely a must read.
Charlin and Maya: What’s next?
Fran Lewis: Reviewer
The Shepherd of Destiny: Gary Sturm
Delete: Obliterate: remove files, documents, recordings, statements, emails and printed matter by stroking one key. Drawing a line through a passage, rewriting an entire story or recreating the final outcome of a novel. But, what would you do if you could delete your entire life, rewrite you own destiny, relive or recapture some moments but do them differently this time? What would you do if you were tired of your life, bored with your wife and child, discontent and needed a change? Danny Loveless: interesting last name that fits his marriage, his life and his feelings towards his family. Deciding that he is either going crazy, dreaming or seeing things he falls prey you might say to the words of a man named Byron Shepherd who draws him in with you could say his unusual magnetic pull. Is Danny just naïve and believes what he is handing him? Is he delusional, paranoid or just plain brainwashed as Byron Shepherd claims to be the Shepherd of Destiny who will allow Danny to not only change his life, delete events that have happened, understand that sometimes history can be revisited and memories are there but the events have never occurred: Would you think you were nuts? Would you buy into what this man is selling? Read the preface as Danny’s psychiatrist relates his story, tells it in his own words and shares Danny’s dreams, realities, fantasies: Did his family really exist? Did he ever really attend church? Who is Byron Shepherd?
There is much more as we meet Burton Rheinstein called the Leader and learn just what happens when one man named Terry Jackson joins his fold, unexplained deaths occur, incidents happen or did they? As we learn more about their plans and the money Jackson wants to invest in this church we hear their dreams, aspirations, cons, scams and much more as Rheinstein convinces himself, his flock and even Jackson that everyone can do anything they want and no one can stop them. His sermons are clear cut, his audience enveloped and within the confines of the room is Danny. Taking over for someone else at the Telecommunication Meeting he and Anne Kessler join forces to work the crowd, sell the product and then merge in a different way. Feeling that he has been revived he continues to want to see her and finds her front and center at Rheinstein’s church taking in every word he says and as brainwashed as the rest. But, this man’s voice echoes Shepherd’s as he convinces his flock that their destiny is in their own hands and it is up to them to create and live it.
Danny seems programmed on several different wavelengths and Shepherd has him convinced that his quest for the perfect woman will take him to Japan and to meet someone named Keiko. She is his destiny and Danny, although at first skeptical, cautious heeds his feelings and intelligence to the wind and decides to listen more intently. Is Shepherd real? Is he a figment of Danny’s unhappy mind hoping to create a better future for himself? When traveling to Japan will he really produce the progenitor: a person or thing from which a person, animal, or plant is descended or originates; an ancestor or parent,” or his own perfect mate. Destiny: “the events that will necessarily happen to a particular person or thing in the future.” Can history or events in our lives be altered?
A session with a psychiatrist and his incite into Danny’s dreams is quite compelling. Relating that he is living you might say in two different worlds one with a wife and daughter and a second without. What happens when he returns home alerts readers that maybe you can alter your future by deleting your past as Danny returns home, finds someone else living there, winds up in the psychiatric ward of a hospital and begins to search for answers. Hoping that his friend Vargas, his drinking buddy at the Summer House will clarify things and help him out little does he realize he thinks he is crazy? Wanting to connect with his ex-wife Karen he hopes that some memories will ignite and then things will fall back into place. So, did Sandy really exist? Did he ever have a daughter named Tanya? When he reflects on Rheinstein and Shepherd is one the catalyst for his dreams and the other the facilitator for his future? Nightmares are scary but when you live them while awake and are not aware of whether what you are envisioning being real or imaginary what would you do if you were Danny? The first part of the novel ends and we move to Japan where Danny hopes to find his perfect woman but not before being true to form and having some fun. A job in an English school and then one to privately tutor a young girl leads him to debauchery, drinking and getting fired. Weak in many ways, delusional in others just what is real within his mind, how far will he go to attest to what Shepherd as planned for him? Shepherd and Rheinstein: two different men, visions or his imagination? Did he recreate a perfect family when his marriage fell apart? The novel continues with his encounter with Shepherd and his search for the truth.
Can you really find perfection? In his search for the perfect woman what Danny learns along the way will enlighten not just him, Shepherd and many others but in finding what you think you want you might lose sight of yourself. In life we all make choices and those choices can and will direct our paths. As Danny and Shepherd meet many times during his two-year stay in Japan, we learn much about Danny, his insecurities and his need to always win. Feeling that he controls relationships, their outcome and their length it’s apparent within this supposedly confident man there is a touch of insecurity. Two special women: Sadako and Hiroko: Why can’t he decide? What happens when he finally meets Keiko? Is she all that was expected? Shepherd: Just how powerful is he and what happens when he wants to tell the world just what Rheinstein has planned? “ Everyone is given two destructive forces if used unwisely: Intelligence and imagination.” Is this story just someone’s imagination made to help everyone take a look at themselves and their lives? Is Shepherd living his life through Danny enjoying his human flaws, frailties and relationships because of the lack of friends in his life? Where does everyone wind up and what happens that will ignite fear within the crowds that came to hear Rheinstein declare himself you might say indestructible?
An ending quite powerful and a man, whose life changed the minute he made one wrong choice, betrayed his family and decided on a course that would send him to many places trying to find his own niche in the world but never did. Danny Loveless: with all of the women he had and with all of those he left behind: Did he ever find love or was he truly Loveless? Perfection: What’s your definition? Do we really need someone who is perfect or just someone who cares? Author Gary Strum takes readers inside the mind of Danny Loveless and asks us to decide: What is real? What is our imagination? What is our true destiny? Characters that are uniquely depicted, lessons in Japanese vocabulary to enrich the story and help you get to know the characters better, The Shepherd of Destiny: Would you want him as a friend?
Fran Lewis: Reviewer