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Over Land, Over Seas: Canadian Books Set Elsewhere
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Over Land, Over Seas: Canadian Books Set Elsewhere

By kileyturner
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Recent and acclaimed fiction set outside of Canada.
Do Not Say We Have Nothing

Do Not Say We Have Nothing

edition:Paperback
also available: Hardcover

Madeleine Thien's internationally acclaimed, Scotiabank Giller Prize-winning novel now available in a beautiful trade paperback. 

     Madeleine Thien's new novel is breathtaking in scope and ambition. With the ease and skill of a master storyteller, Thien takes us inside an extended family in China, showing us the lives of two successive generations--those who lived through Mao's Cultural Revolution in the mid-twentieth century; and the children of the survivors, who became the students protest …

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Excerpt

On the 16th of December, 1990, Ma came home in a taxi with a new daughter who wore no coat, only a thick scarf, a woollen sweater, blue jeans and canvas shoes. I had never met a Chinese girl before, that is, one who, like my father, came from real mainland China. A pair of grey mittens dangled from a string around her neck and swayed in nervous rhythm against her legs. The fringed ends of her blue scarf fell one in front and one behind, like a scholar. The rain was falling hard, and she walked with her head down, holding a medium-sized suitcase that appeared to be empty. She was pale and her hair had the gleam of the sea.
   Casually I opened the door and widened my eyes as if I was not expecting visitors. 
   "Girl," Ma said. "Take the suitcase. Hurry up." 
   Ai-ming stepped inside and paused on the edge of the doormat. When I reached for the suitcase, my hand accidentally touched hers, but she didn’t draw back. Instead, her other hand reached out and lightly covered mine. She gazed right at me, with such openness and curiosity that, out of shyness, I closed my eyes.
   "Ai-ming," Ma was saying. "Let me introduce you. This is my Girl."
   I pulled away and opened my eyes again.
   Ma, taking off her coat, glanced first at me and then at the room. The brown sofa with its three camel-coloured stripes had seen better days, but I had spruced it up with all the flowery pillows and stuffed animals from my bed. I had also turned on the television in order to give this room the appearance of liveliness. Ma nodded vigorously at me. "Girl, greet your aunt."
   "Really, it’s okay if you call me Ai-ming. Please. I really, mmm, prefer it."
   To placate them both, I said, "Hello."
   Just as I suspected, the suitcase was very light. With my free hand, I moved to take Ai-ming’s coat, remembering too late she didn’t have one. My arm wavered in the air like a question mark. She reached out, grasped my hand and firmly shook it.
   She had a question in her eyes. Her hair, pinned back on one side, fell loosely on the other, so that she seemed forever in profile, about to turn towards me. Without letting go of my hand, she manoeuvred her shoes noiselessly off her feet, first one then the other. Pinpoints of rain glimmered on her scarf. Our lives had contracted to such a degree that I could not remember the last time a stranger had entered our home; Ai-ming’s presence made everything unfamiliar, as if the walls were crowding a few inches nearer to see her. The previous night, we had, at last, tidied Ba’s papers and notebooks, putting them into boxes and stacking the boxes under the kitchen table. Now I found the table’s surface deceitfully bare. I freed my hand, saying I would put the suitcase in her bedroom.
   Ma showed her around the apartment. I retreated to the sofa and pretended to watch the Weather Channel, which predicted rain for the rest of the week, the rest of 1990, the rest of the century, and even the remainder of all time. Their two voices ran one after the other like cable cars, interrupted now and then by silence. The intensity in the apartment crept inside me, and I had the sensation that the floor was made of paper, that there were words written everywhere I couldn’t read, and one unthinking gesture could crumple this whole place down.

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The Winter Family

The Winter Family

A Novel
edition:Hardcover
also available: Paperback

Tracing a gang of ruthless outlaws from its birth during the American Civil War to a final bloody showdown in the Territory of Oklahoma, The Winter Family is a hyperkinetic Western noir and a full-on assault to the senses.
     From the 1860s to the 1880s, the outlaws known as the Winter Family roam the harsh frontier, both serving and battling the fierce advance of civilization. Among its twisted specimens are the psychopathic killer Quentin Ross, the mean and moronic Empire brothers, the imp …

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High summer night in Oklahoma. Warm winds that smelled of apple blossoms. Now and then a lightning bug winked on and drifted through the air. Quentin Ross caught one in his fist and held it there, with its radiance leaking between his fingers and reflecting in his shallow eyes. For a moment he rolled the lightning bug between his thumb and forefinger, and then he crushed it, smearing himself with its luminescence, and he smiled, wide and empty.
 
The Winter Family was camped in a stand of blackjack oaks. There was no fire but the moon was up, pushing the stars back into the darkness of the sky. Charlie and Johnny Empire lay on their sides, playing cards and bickering. Fred Johnson wrote in his little book and drank whiskey from a cup not much bigger than a thimble. Quentin wandered from tree to tree, humming to himself, soft and tuneless. The others tried to sleep, tucked between tree roots or curled in bedrolls like pill bugs. All of them, except for Augustus Winter.
 
He sat astride a pale horse, like Death, leaning back in his heavy saddle and smoking a cigarette in an ivory holder. The suit he wore was well tailored but growing threadbare. His straw-white
hair was cropped short and he had an extravagantly waxed mustache. His eyes were very light amber, almost yellow, the eyes of an eagle or a cat. Occasionally he would remove a watch from his pocket and turn it in the pale moonlight, watching as the second hand marched around, and around, and around. It is often observed that murderers do not look like murderers. No one said that of Augustus Winter.
 
A little after midnight Winter cocked his head. “They’re coming.”
 
“I don’t hear anything,” Quentin said.
 
But soon they all did. The sleepers were kicked into wakefulness, the lantern shuttered, weapons drawn, instructions whispered.
 
O’Shea and two of his hands came around the bend and rode up to the camp. Everyone relaxed. O’Shea pulled up his horse, unstrapped a bag tied to his saddle, and tossed it to Quentin.
 
“I’d be grateful if you count it now,” O’Shea said.
 
Quentin knelt down, opened the sack, and rifled through the bills quickly. Then he stood, his knees creaking.
 
“Yes, it’s all there, as we agreed.”
 
“Good,” O’Shea said and began to wheel his horse around.
 
“Now just a moment, Mister O’Shea,” Quentin called out.
 
“Please, just a moment more.” Quentin’s voice was very deep, melodious. He spoke slowly, as if he were thinking very carefully, or reciting poetry.
 
O’Shea turned back to him, reluctantly. Both men were around fifty, but O’Shea was a tall man with a healthy mane of gray hair, while Quentin was small and fine boned.
 
“We’ve run into some unexpected expenses . . . ,” Quentin began.
 
“Oh god damn you,” O’Shea said.
 
Quentin continued as if O’Shea had not spoken.
 
“. . . which were not included in the initial estimate of our—”
 
“Estimate?” O’Shea shouted. “We had a deal, you thieves.”
 
“Yeah,” Winter said. He did not speak loudly but all the men fell silent, and the bugs too, and the wind seemed to die down to nothing.
 
“Yeah. Thieves, Mister O’Shea. And worse.”
 
O’Shea looked at Winter and bore his gaze. That was something not every man could do. O’Shea was not like every man. Willpower radiated from him. And he was angry now. He looked at the dirty mob of killers under the trees, white trash and blacks and Mexicans, in their muddy boots and sweat-stiff dusters, thin and poor and dumb as nails. One of them was using baler twine as a rifle strap. He thought: Am I to let these men get the better of me? But then, it was only money.
 
“How much?” O’Shea asked. Quentin told him. O’Shea nodded and said, “The money will be ready when you get back. I trust that is all.” Not a question.
 
But Quentin said, “Just one more thing, Mister O’Shea! Please! One more thing. A member of our band has taken ill. He needs a doctor. We would be grateful if you could bring him back to town.”
 
“Oh for heaven’s sake,” O’Shea snapped, but they were already bringing the sick man forward, surprisingly small, wrapped up tightly in a stinking bedroll. O’Shea stood up in his stirrups and looked down. He frowned. The man was an Indian, but his skin had gone gray and seemed thin, as if his bones were likely to poke through at any moment. Greasy foam flecked around his lips and nose and the whites of his eyes were jaundiced, the color of egg yolk.
 
The little Indian regarded O’Shea with piteous weakness. O’Shea frowned in disgust.
 
“His name is Bill Bread,” Quentin said.
 
“One of you take him,” O’Shea said to his hands.
 
“Farewell, Mister O’Shea,” Quentin called, and tipped his hat.
 
“Take good care of Mister Bread!”
 
The Winter Family laughed as the hands threw Bill Bread over the neck of one of their sturdy ponies and rode off, holding their noses. They all laughed, except for Augustus Winter, who watched O’Shea’s horse in the dim moonlight, until it was lost in the trees.

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The Wonder

The Wonder

A Novel
edition:Paperback
also available: eBook Hardcover Paperback

SCOTIABANK GILLER PRIZE FINALIST

#1 NATIONAL BESTSELLER

“Heartbreaking and transcendent.” —The New York Times

The latest masterpiece from the Man Booker Prize–shortlisted author of Room

In 1850s Ireland a village is baffled by young Anna O’Donnell’s fast. The girl appears to be thriving after months without food, and the story of this “wonder” has reached fever pitch. Tourists flock to the O’Donnell family’s cabin, and a journalist is sent to cover the sensational story. Enter L …

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Stranger

Stranger

A Novel
edition:Paperback
also available: eBook Hardcover

Matthew Thomas, New York Times—bestselling author of We Are Not Ourselves, calls Stranger “a work of genius. . . . [Bergen] is one of our living greats.”

National bestseller, longlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize

The gripping novel from David Bergen, the Giller Prize—winning author of The Time in Between and a CBC Canada Reads finalist for The Age of Hope

Compelling and timely, the Toronto Star declares Stranger “an engrossing human exploration of displacement and inequality. . . . B …

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Paper Lions

Paper Lions

edition:Paperback
also available: eBook

Told from three distinct points of view, Paper Lions is an epic multi-generational novel about India, set in the years from the advent of the Second World War to the beginning of modern times in the 1960s. War brings opportunities and wealth to some; Independence ushers in great hope for the future; and the nation's Partition brings along horrors, during which fortunes are made and lost, homes destroyed and abandoned, people slaughtered. The years roll on, a new generation arrives. In the locali …

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Aria

Aria

edition:Paperback
also available: Paperback

National Bestseller
This extraordinary, gripping debut is a rags-to-riches-to-revolution tale about an orphan girl's coming of age in Iran.
"Aria is a feminist odyssey, about a girl in a time of intolerance as the revolution in Iran is breaking out . . . a poised and dramatic historical novel with contemporary relevance." --John Irving
"Here comes a sweeping saga about the Iranian revolution as it explodes--told from the ground level and the centre of chaos. A Doctor Zhivago of Iran." --Margaret …

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Excerpt

Trucks rumbled along the gravel road in the dead of the night, vibrating like a line of ants, thick tarpaulins shaking as engines whirred and wheels lifted dust, fogging the cold February air. Behrouz Bakhtiar closed his eyes. A film of dirt coated the skin covering the thin bones of his face. He watched by moonlight as four eight-wheelers filled with young men from the provinces rolled away.

He would not be driving the young men home as usual. This was the first night of his four days off. He would instead place a cigarette in his mouth, light it with the last match he had in his pocket, and walk home down the red mountain, where earth min­gled with snow, then stride through the city from north to south. This was his Tehran, and he was its secret guardian, the angel perched on the mountaintop counting buildings, trees, lights, and people who walked about like insects, unaware of being watched.

Strange how people are, Behrouz thought, the cigarette between his thin lips. And he began his walk down and through the city just as he had planned, just as he had been anticipating all day. He slid down the slopes effortlessly, taking a drag from his cigarette every once in a while. He whistled when the mood struck him. He had walked this path many times, since he had first learned to drive up the mountain. How old had he been, seventeen? He was thirty-three now, so that made it sixteen years. With time off mul­tiplied by sixteen, that made about four thousand times he had walked up and down the slopes of Darakeh.

Sometimes, of course, the generals gave him permission to drive down and save himself the three-hour walk. And when Behrouz first got married, the general in command had not only encouraged him to drive, he’d let him off early to encourage hus­bandly duties—but not without reminding Behrouz how old his new wife was. “Think that wife of yours’ll be able to handle fresh little you?” the general had said.

Behrouz had married Zahra when he was nineteen, upon his father’s urging. “The Prophet was a boy, his wife was forty when he took her,” his father had said. But Zahra was no prophet’s wife. She was thirty-six, had never married, and had a son, Ahmad, who was the same age as Behrouz. Ahmad hadn’t come to the wedding. That night, when Behrouz asked his new wife where her son was, Zahra replied, “Somewhere in the prison halls.” Then she had forced herself on him.

When he’d first started driving trucks in the army, Behrouz had been more talkative. The soldiers liked him. They would reveal themselves, telling him about their lives on the farms or in small towns. If they were Tehrani boys, they talked about their schools and their girlfriends. The only one who had never opened up was a member of the royal family—a cousin of the king. But Behrouz supposed that was different. He had been ordered not to look the boy in the eyes.

Behrouz had begun learning to drive at sixteen because he wasn’t strong enough to fight, or smart enough to read. His father had taught him the basics. He could have sold bread on the streets like his father, or worked the oil mines like his uncles. But the one time he had suggested this, his father slapped him so hard, Behrouz saw stars for days. And that was the end of that.

Now, as he walked, the red dirt beneath his boots remained frozen. Three nights ago there had been a storm. But now the snow had settled and was packed along the path. The walk wasn’t as bad as he’d expected. He swiftly made it down Darakeh, to the northern tip of Pahlavi Street. Here there were cobblestone roads and the houses were old. He’d heard that the king’s father once lived here.

He walked past the old car parked along the street, searching his pocket in vain for another smoke. A man was walking toward him.

“Could I trouble you for a cigarette?” Behrouz asked. He had learned how to speak politely, like the people did up here. The man pulled out a single smoke from his pack. Behrouz took it and placed it between his lips. The man held out a lighter, its flame flickering in the slight breeze.

“Thank you,” Behrouz said, and began to walk away.

“No money?” the man said.

Behrouz waited.

“No money?” the man asked again.

“You want money for the light?” Behrouz said.

“What do you think?”

Behrouz searched both pockets awkwardly.

“Only kidding. Stupid man.” The man laughed as he walked away.

Behrouz stepped up his pace and cut through alleyways. He knew he was somewhere in Youssef-Abad district, midway through the city. He normally walked the main street, but tonight he felt like a change. Streams of sewer water ran in the gutters, but blos­soming mulberry trees flanked the roads. This district was one of his favourites. He liked the corner shops and the cinema and cafés, which were old but patronized by rich people.

He was staring at the letters on the front of the cinema when he heard the cry—like a cat in pain. He walked closer to where he thought the sound was coming from, but water gurgling in the gutter muffled its location. He crossed into another alley—nothing there. He continued to move from alley to alley, jumping over gut­ters. The more he found nothing, the more urgently he searched. His only help was the moon; there were no lights in the nearby homes; it seemed the rest of the world was asleep.

He finally reached the mulberry tree, which was flanked by rows of garbage. Staring up at him was a pack of wild dogs. He imagined them tearing the tiny creature who had made the sound limb from limb.

He grabbed a stick from the ground and charged. But none of the dogs moved. How long had they been there? As he neared, the dogs sat and watched quietly. At last, Behrouz bent down and lifted the baby into his arms. The dogs sniffed his feet, turned and left.

He sped toward the edge of town, past abandoned buildings in which the poor secretly lived, past stacks of cardboard where the even poorer slept. He wondered how long the child had gone without food. The stores were still closed, but his wife must have bought some milk, he thought frantically.

The baby didn’t look more than three days old. His head hurt. The stars whirled in the sky. At last, not far in the distance, he saw the pale outline of his house.

For three hours, Behrouz sat in his living room, trying to feed the child. He had woken a sleeping neighbour, who had found some milk, though the baby threw up most of it. Now, once again, he dipped the cap of his fountain pen into the bowl of milk beside him on the floor. He held the tiny vessel to the baby’s lips, careful not to tilt it too far. The milk flowed onto her lips, but only a few drops got in. He wiped her face clean with the back of his pinky finger. In a minute, he would try again.

Zahra was sleeping. Her son, Ahmad, out of jail only two days, had left his dirty boots on the kitchen table. He’d landed in prison for cutting someone’s fingers off, and Behrouz knew he would already be back to stealing.

By morning, Behrouz was struggling to keep his eyes open. From the north-facing window, he watched the rising sun. The rays crept toward him, along the floor. In the bedroom, his wife still slept soundly. He got up, walked into her room, and stood at her bedside, the baby to his chest. Zahra lay tightly wrapped in her blan­kets. She was fair-skinned, with straight, fine hair that turned a shade of light brown in summer. She liked to curl it these days, using little plastic rolls.

He returned to the living room and laid the baby gently on the floor. Then he walked quietly back to the bedroom.

“We have to talk,” Behrouz whispered.

Zahra covered her eyes to block the sun. “You’re home. Figured you’d be killing yourself with opium all night.”

“Come with me.” He pulled her out of bed.

In the living room, the baby’s arms and legs shook and she struggled like an overturned insect.
“I think she’s hungry,” Behrouz said. “I gave her some milk, but she hardly drank. She needs to suck it, I think.”

Zahra backed away from the infant. “Where did you find it? Is this some mess of yours we have to fix?” Her voice was sharp.

Behrouz picked up the baby. “Nothing like that,” he said. “Last night in the alley, there was waste all around her. I found her in Youssef-Abad.”

“That’s the North-City,” Zahra said. “What were you doing with those people? Listen to me: You put that baby where you found it so the trash who are her people can take it back.”

“There were dogs around her. I don’t know what they wanted, but—”

“Get it out of my house. And I know you do your own nasty business. You never touch me—as if I were made of fire and would burn you. But men are men. You must be touching somebody.” Zahra grabbed the baby’s face. “Did you take a look at its eyes? They’re blue. I swear on Imam Hossein you’ve brought a blue-eyed devil into my house.”

“Her eyes are green,” Behrouz said.

“No. There’s blue in them. You’ve brought evil into this house, Mr. Bakhtiar.”

Behrouz listened silently as Zahra walked away and into the bed­room, still shouting at him. Fourteen years with her and the rage had only worsened. He looked at the baby. Zahra was right. There was blue in those eyes. He couldn’t think how to comfort her. It had been so easy when he’d been a little boy and would play pretend. He would rock his baby, feed his baby, just like the neighbourhood girls did. And he’d been careful to never let his father know. But now, here was a real baby. The only thing he could think to do was speak to it, human to human. Not human to doll or master to slave. Yes, he would do what humans had always done, from the first crack of life.

“Want me to tell you a story?” he whispered to the little girl. Her wrinkled eyelids were shut tight, as if she would never want to face the world. “Want me to tell you the story of the Tooba Tree?”
Behrouz said again. And so he began, hoping to drown out Zahra’s shouts. “Past the clouds and the sky, way up in heaven, there is a tree, the Tooba Tree, from whose roots spring milk, and honey, and wine.”

“I curse the day I married a boy,” Zahra yelled from the other room.
Behrouz kept on: “Milk to nourish you, honey to sweeten you, wine to take you to the land of dreams.”

Zahra yelled louder. “Think you were my saviour, Mr. Bakhtiar? You only made hell last longer.”
Behrouz lifted the baby closer to his lips and whispered in her ear. “The Tooba Tree belongs to the orphans of heaven, for there is nothing that matters more, my little one.”

He stopped and listened for Zahra again, but she had finished her rant. The baby had opened her eyes but was falling back asleep. “You sang to me from that alley,” he whispered to her, “and I heard your song. Yet if I hadn’t, and if you had not been saved, the Tooba Tree would have been waiting for you and you would have been all right just the same.” Behrouz paused. He wondered if saving the little girl had been the right thing to do after all. But, since he had saved her and forced her into this thing called life, there was one more thing he needed to do.

“I used to love music, you know, when I was a little boy,” he said, putting his pinky finger in the baby’s mouth so she could suckle. “I used to sing, in secret, so my father wouldn’t know. I used to sing arias. Know what they are? Little tales, cries in the night. If you sing an aria, the world will know all about you. It will know your dreams and secrets. Your pains and your loves.”

Behrouz heard Zahra throw a pillow against the bedroom wall, and paused. After a few moments, hearing nothing more, he kept on. “I’ll name you Aria, after all the world’s pains and all the world’s loves,” he said. “It will be as if you had never been aban­doned. And when you open your mouth to speak, all the world will know you.”

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Strangers with the Same Dream

Strangers with the Same Dream

edition:Paperback
also available: Hardcover

A brilliant, astonishing and politically timely page-turner set in 1921 Palestine, from the author of the bestselling novel Far to Go, nominated for the Man Booker Prize.

This beautifully written, shocking and timely novel whisks us back to 1921, when a band of young Jewish pioneers set out to realize a dream: the founding of a settlement on a patch of land that would, twenty-five years later, become Israel. One by one, we enter the minds of three compelling characters--Ida, an idealistic young w …

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Birds of a Kind

Birds of a Kind

edition:Paperback
also available: eBook
tagged : canadian

Is it really important to cling to our lost identities?

A terrorist attack in Jerusalem puts Eitan, a young Israeli-German genetic researcher, in a coma, while his girlfriend Wahida, a Moroccan graduate student, is left to uncover his family secret that brought them to Israel in the first place. Since Eitan’s parents erupted at a Passover meal when they realized Wahida was not Jewish, he has harboured a suspicion about his heritage that, if true, could change everything.

In this sweeping new dra …

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Excerpt
2. The first night after the massacre

 

A hospital room. A nurse enters.

Nurse. Sorry. Visiting hours are over. You have to leave now. Until seven tomorrow morning.

Wahida. I’m sorry, I don’t speak Hebrew.

Nurse. It’s eight o’clock. You have to leave now. Until seven tomorrow morning.

Wahida. Will you call me if he wakes up in the night?

Nurse. Do we know where to reach you?

Wahida. I lost my phone. You can reach me on Eitan’s phone or at the Paradise Hotel. Lions’ Gate.

Nurse. You should move closer to the hospital. The army might close off the Muslim Quarter.

Wahida. Can I stay here?

Nurse. It’s not allowed.

Wahida. Just tonight.

Nurse. I’m sorry. The entire floor is occupied by victims of the attack. Many of them will die tonight. The first night after an attack separates the living from the dead. You couldn’t handle it. No one can. So we limit the number of people present. Otherwise, we’d fall apart, too. The days ahead are going to be difficult. You have to get some rest. You have to sleep.

Wahida. I can’t sleep. I replay the scene in my head as soon as I’m alone. I close my eyes and it all comes back, the bridge, the people, the heat, the sun, customs, the body search, an endless loop of images until the explosion.

Nurse. Were you together?

Wahida. They had separated us. That’s what saved me and probably saved him too. If they hadn’t decided to search me, both of us probably would have died on that bus to Jordan. But when the truck attacked, I was still being interrogated. Eitan had told me, I’ll wait for you, and we were separated. I didn’t see it happen. I was with a woman soldier who was body-?searching me when the explosion took place. A horrendous vomiting followed by the smell of burnt flesh. I had never seen so many dead bodies.

Nurse. Are you alone in Israel?

Wahida. Yes.

Nurse. Where does his family live?

Wahida. Berlin.

Nurse. Have theybeen notified?

Wahida. I’m not the right person to contact them.

Nurse. They have to be notified. Where are you from?

Wahida. New York.

Nurse. Contact his parents. That’s the first thing to do. You can’t face this alone. What’s your name?

Wahida. Wahida.

Eitan. Wahida?

Nurse. My name is Sigal. Here.

She hands wahida a tablet.

This will help you sleep. If Eitan wakes up, I’ll call you. I promise.

The nurse exits.

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