The Best Place on Earth

From the Publisher

Reminiscent of the early work of Jhumpa Lahiri, ARC and meAyelet Tsabari’s award-winning debut collection of stories is global in scope yet intimate in feel, beautifully written, and emotionally powerful. From Israel to India to Canada, Tsabari’s indelible characters grapple with love, violence, faith, the slipperiness of identity, and the challenges of balancing old traditions with modern times.

These eleven spellbinding stories often focus on Israel’s Mizrahi Jews, featuring mothers and children, soldiers and bohemians, lovers and best friends, all searching for their place in the world. In “Tikkun,” a man crosses paths with his free-spirited ex-girlfriend—now a married Orthodox Jew—and minutes later barely escapes tragedy. In “Brit Milah,” a mother travels from Israel to visit her daughter in Canada and is stunned by her grandson’s upbringing. A young medic in the Israeli army bends the rules to potentially dangerous consequence in “Casualties.” After her mom passes away, a teenage girl comes to live with her aunt outside Tel Aviv and has her first experience with unrequited love in “Say It Again, Say Something Else.” And in the moving title story, two estranged sisters—one whose marriage is ending, the other whose relationship is just beginning—try to recapture the close bond they had as kids.

Absorbing, tender, and sharply observed, The Best Place on Earth infuses moments of sorrow with small moments of grace: a boy composes poetry in a bomb shelter, an old photo helps a girl make sense of her mother’s rootless past. Tsabari’s voice is gentle yet wise, illuminating the burdens of history, the strength of the heart, and our universal desire to belong.

 

Book Trailer

Check out the book trailer, shot, edited and directed by Elsin Davidi, with sound by Omer Most, narration by Gil Dattner, and music by my brother, Eldad Tsabary. Hope you enjoy it!

 

Tumblr

Check the Tumblr Page of The Best Place on Earth, for photos that I took to accompany a few of the stories in the book, and some excerpts.

©Ayelet Tsabari

 

Praise for The Best Place on Earth

 

״…Because all the judges agreed that the excellence and boldness of The Best Place on Earth predicts a brilliant future for Jewish fiction, Ayelet Tsabari won the Sami Rohr Prize. Her stories surprise and startle; her characters pause for a moment while we stamp our passport, and then sidle off to unexpected, unpredicted destinations. Wherever the stories are set, Israel is always, somehow, present, as if lodged in a safe room of the mind.”

—Sami Rohr Prize Judges’ Comments

“Stunning… Tsabari creates complex, conflicted, prickly people you’ll want to get to know better.”

Kirkus, starred review

“It’s impossible not to be awestruck by the depth and power rendered in Tsabari’s stories—she does so much with so little.”

Elle.com; 16 Novels by Women Everyone Will Be Talking About in 2016

“Warm, intimate, and humane.”

New York Journal of Books

“This short story collection is a fiction debut for Tsabari, but it demonstrates that she is already a talented storyteller. Her writing has an immediacy and power that invites readers into her characters’ psyches… Tsabari’s characters will step off the page to captivate readers.”

—Publishers Weekly

“With these stories, Tsabari has helped create a new type of Jewish immigrant storytelling.”

Haaretz

“To read Tsabari is to see Israeliness, which was intended as a remedy for the ills of Diasporic Jewishness, turn into a new kind of Diasporic identity. It is a fascinating transformation, and The Best Place on Earth may be the herald of a whole new genre of Jewish literature.”

Tablet

“The best place on Earth is wherever you are reading Ayelet Tsabari’s debut short story collection. Filled with vivid characters and compelling storytelling.”

—CBC Books’ Writers to Watch

“Reminiscent of the inner-wounded, circumstantially doomed protagonists of Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms… A well-crafted literary snapshot of love relationships amid shellfire and suicide bomb. Tsabari emerges as a writer to show a new way to look at the world amid the confluence of love and death, sex and survival.”

—The Vancouver Sun

“Impressive… Brutally honest… Smart, sad and sincere…The characters imagined by Tsabari are achingly human and almost flawlessly fashioned.”

—Winnipeg Free Press

“Penetrating… The author (possesses) superior skill at excavating the internal and external conflicts encountered by her characters.”

—Quill and Quire

“Remarkable… A potent examination of the quotidian devastation wreaked by continuous bombings in the city… Tsabari writes with a clear yet compassionate eye about characters attempting to wrest meaningful lives out of an environment that strongly opposes them.”

—The National Post

“Powerful… Brilliant… The stories depict minorities so skillfully, with such a light and accurate touch.”

—The Daily Beast

“Tsabari’s characters represent the complexities that really define Israel, the differing people jostling one another in this tiny plot of land on the Mediterranean. Their tales are fascinating.”

—The Toronto Star

“A notable debut…. Issues of assimilation and belonging… are approached here in specific ways that both trouble the underlying cultural conversations and tell moving stories.”

—The Globe and Mail

“Compassionate, compelling… Her stories speak out from from the heart of Israeli society and experiences. The stories of The Best Place on Earth leave you wishing they wouldn’t end. Highly recommended.”

—The Times of Israel

“I didn’t want to put down The Best Place on Earth. Ayelet Tsabari’s first book is a smart, sexy, and absorbing collection of short stories. ”

—Ottawa Jewish Bulletin

“Poignant, slice-of-life, humane tales. Tsabari’s descriptions are colourful and vibrant. A great start from a promising writer.”

—Canadian Jewish News

“Tsabari’s stories ask about the toll of living in contemporary Israel, in both understandings of the word: the price we pay to get where we must go, and the damage and loss accrued by disaster. Depending on your politics you could read it either way. Tsabari’s strength is allowing both interpretations of her work.”

—Telegraph Journal

“Intricate and unrelentingly human.”

— Prism International

“’Can this writer ever write… Tsabari is excellent at atmosphere and representing a very real sense of place. …Stories that push the limits of their form, are not just well-rendered realism but are also about story itself.”

Pickle Me This

“The stories are fierce, startlingly emotional, and teeming with sexual energy, but they are also deeply empathetic, quietly political, and brilliantly executed… These are stories that need to be read, reread, shared, and experienced.”

Book Club in a Box

“Tsabari’s stories pulse with raw energy as they unfurl along the fault lines within modern Israeli society. The compelling urgency of this collection reflects the multi-faceted culture it brings to life; its quiet wisdom speaks to the universality of the hopes and conflicts it depicts.”

—Nancy Richler, author of The Imposter Bride

“Frank, bold, sexy, Ayelet Tsabari’s voice astonishes with its vitality. The Best Place on Earth offers stories of love and displacement set against a backdrop of military conflict, told through the lens of being young and Israeli of Middle Eastern descent. These tales feel torn from the heart.”

Catherine Bush, author of Claire’s Head and The Rules of Engagement

“Tsabari’s debut collection is cinematic. Her vivid descriptions and insights on the intersections of love, hope and war are thought-provoking and challenge the reader to engage with a conflicted world with a new understanding.”

—Gurjinder Basran, author of Everything Was Good-bye

“Stories are survival. Fiercely alert, Tsabari’s Israeli-Mizrahi inspired stories – where nothing is a given – deserves our fierce attention. Her deft evoking of the sensate vibrancy of Israeli daily life locates us inside its very vectors of violence and intimacy. There is no turning away. Elating, wrenching, The Best Place on Earth is on the cutting edge of our literature; our deeper comprehension of global life.”

—Betsy Warland, author of Breathing the Page– Reading the Act of Writing

“The most restrictive border may be the most primary one—the distance between two human minds; between one person’s inner world and the subjective life of another. Ayelet Tsabari shows us literature’s power to cross this essential divide, and to shatter simplistic notions that tempt us when we think in cultural, regional, or historical terms. This book marks the debut of a brilliant and ambitious literary voice, and Tsabari’s rich and subtle fiction gives us the world as it is—complexly multicultural, messily beautiful, and painfully sublime.”

—Wayde Compton, author of After Canaan

Foreign Editions

Italy (Nuova Editrice Berti)

The Best Place on Earth - book cover

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Harper360 (UK)

UK (Harper360)

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Kunst (Estonia)

Estonia (Kunst)

  • The Best Place on Earth was chosen as book of the week by Vikerraadio. Host Liivika Hanstin spoke about the book here.