The title story of Helprin’s first published collection, “A Dove of the East,” is a beautiful story of love and courage set in Israel some years after the 1967 Six-Day War. Leon Orlovsky is a French Jew who has settled in the occupied territory of the Golan Heights and become a scout for a crew of cowboys. His job is to ride ahead of the herd, finding a route to water and fresh forage. He enjoys his work, taking pleasure in the solitude and the harsh beauty of his surroundings despite the persistent threat of Syrian snipers and saboteurs.
One evening, Leon finishes his day with an outburst of wild riding and an unexplained outpouring of emotion ranging from exhilaration to violence to tears. In the morning, he finds a beautiful dove, critically wounded, apparently after having been trampled during Leon’s wild ride of the night before. He decides that he must stay with the bird, to keep it company as it heals or, more likely, dies. Leon wonders why, and how, he can do this for a simple bird, shirking his responsibility to his comrades and exposing himself to ridicule and danger.
A long flashback then tells the story of Leon’s relationship with Ann, with whom he fell in love at first sight (a common occurrence in Helprin’s stories) when both were quite young. They courted, married, and had started on what would seem to be a wonderful life together until the interruption of World War II. Here, as with the Syrian guerrillas in the...
(The entire section is 464 words.)