Dr. Eitan Green, in Waking Lions by Ayelet Gundar-Goshen, believes he has it made. He’s a successful neurosurgeon living in Israel, happily married to a police detective, with two fine sons. Everything is going his way, until one night when he’s driving home from the hospital where he works, he’s tired and not paying attention, and he hits someone. He gets out of the car and looks at the person he hit, a migrant from Eritrea in Africa. It’s clear to him that the man is beyond help. He should call the police, set the wheels of the system in motion but he makes a different decision: he can’t do anything for the man, so he just drives off.
Already we have a problem, right? We have a person who’s basically doing good work who has a moral lapse. The fact that his wife is a police officer complicates things, but that’s not the worst of it, as it turns out: Dr. Green dropped his wallet at the scene of the crime, and the widow of the victim comes to Dr. Green and confronts him with it and her knowledge that he was responsible for the hit and run.
At this point, you’re thinking we’re in a blackmail story, and we sort of are, but it’s not the kind of blackmail you’re expecting. The widow, Sikrit, does not want money from the doctor. She demands something that’s ultimately more dangerous and more life-changing from him: that he provide medical services to the migrants living on the outskirts of the community who are, because of their status, are in desperate need of medical help and can’t get any on their own.
At the same time that Dr. Green is being drawn into a world he’s never had any contact with (hardly ever even thought about), his wife is investigating that hit and run accident, not realizing that she’s coming closer and closer to finding that her own husband is the guilty party.
Yes, the book has all the accouterments of a thriller, but there’s a lot more going on under the covers here: questions of individual morality and the larger morality of societies, responsibility and justice. For a good, thought-provoking read, try Waking Lions.