Book Review: "The Seven Good Years: A Memoir" by Etgar Keret

TheSevenGoodYearsNot long ago, my dad bought me a copy of The Seven Good Years: A Memoir (2015) by Etgar Keret. I had not asked for the book, as I had no idea that it existed, and I’m not sure where he got it, especially since I could tell that it was copy that had already lived a bit of life. I imagine the book traveled miles through wind and rain and other stuff to make its way into my dad’s hands and then mine. Or maybe he got it at a used bookstore. I don’t know. Anyway, I saw the name Etgar and was intrigued—Jewish ancestry may have something to do with this. When I flipped the book over, I saw praise from Jonathan Safran Foer (author of one of my favorite books, Everything is Illuminated): “Funny, dark, and poignant.” Further, coming in at just 171 pages, I figured that it wouldn’t take long to read. It was perfect. After researching carefully on the dust jacket, I learned a bit about this Etgar Keret guy. He is Israeli and writes in Hebrew, although The Seven Good Years has yet to be published in his native country and language. He is the son of Holocaust survivors and has made his home in Tel Aviv with his wife and son. Keret lectures at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, and I imagine that he would be a pretty cool professor based on his stories.

It took me less than 48 hours to read The Seven Good Years, which is an amazing thing since I am in the midst of a stressful and exciting move. I was surprised when I delved into the first chapter and it ended three pages later. And I thought Hemingway was concise. Keret, as I came to quickly learn, is known for his minimalist writing style, which I really came to love after the initial shock. I sometimes read books that are so tediously written that I get lost in the details, so a book like this was much needed in my life. Thanks, Etgar Keret!

The Seven Good Years is a collection of vignettes that could exist autonomously, but together they paint an interesting picture of the quick and sometimes surreal life of Keret. From being placed in a “special” yoga class where Keret is the only non-pregnant practitioner to analyzing Angry Birds to dealing with telemarketers, Keret had me laughing. However, more serious subjects creep up, like cancer and the precariousness of life in the Middle East. All these elements run currents throughout the book, which truly makes its “funny, dark, and poignant,” as Foer has labeled it.

I will leave you with my favorite part of the book. Keret tries to reprimand his son, Lev, for manipulating the lunch lady into bringing him contraband chocolate at school:

“No,” I said. “[Your teacher] told me that Mari the cook brings you chocolate every morning.”

“Yes,” Lev said happily. “Lots and lots and lots of chocolate.”

“[Your teacher] also said that you eat all the chocolate yourself and won’t share it with the other kids,” I added.

“Yes,” Lev agreed quickly. “But I can’t give them any because kids aren’t allowed to eat sweets in school.”

“Very good,” I said. “But if kids aren’t allowed to eat sweets in school, why do you think you can?”

“Because I’m not a kid.” Lev smiled a pudgy, sneaky smile. “I’m a cat.”

“You’re what?”

Meow,” Lev answered in a softy, purry voice. “Meow, meow, meow.

Leslie Michaels is currently a Level 4 improv student at the DCH Training Center. She spends her spare time riding her bicycle, playing Ultimate Frisbee, or hanging out with her boyfriend, Netflix. She still questions whether she’s a dog person or a cat person.