Joshua Cohen’s newest novel, Moving Kings, instantly intrigued me. It’s a story about Israeli immigrants who fall into a difficult job after coming to America. I loved the idea of reading another immigrant story, especially since this one seemed different from anything I’d read before. And I was excited about reading a book with Middle Eastern main characters, because that’s something I’ve been trying to read more of.
(All reviews are spoiler-free unless otherwise noted.)
(From Goodreads) This is a novel about two young Israeli soldiers who travel to New York after fighting in the Gaza War and find work as eviction movers. It’s a story of the housing and eviction crisis in poor Black and Hispanic neighborhoods that also shines new light on the world’s oldest conflict in the Middle East. The year is 2015, and 21-year-olds Yoav and Uri have just completed their compulsory military service in the IDF. In keeping with national tradition, they take time off for R&R: a gap-year spent abroad. They come to America and begin working for Yoav’s distant cousin, David King—a proud American patriot, Republican, and Jew, and the owner and operator of King’s Moving Inc., a heavyweight in the Tri-State area’s moving and storage industries. Yoav and Uri now must struggle to become reacquainted with civilian life, but it’s not easy to move past their militarized selves when their days are spent kicking down doors, working as eviction-movers in the nongentrified corners of Brooklyn and Queens, dispossessing delinquent tenants and homeowners who’ve defaulted on their mortgages. And what starts off as a profitable if eerily familiar job quickly turns violent, when they encounter one homeowner who refuses to leave.
The characters were easily my favorite part of Moving Kings. I liked how different they all were. It really felt like I was reading about real people, it was easy to picture them in the world I’m familiar with. And since this is such a character-driven story, I think it’s important that the characters are well-written. There was a depth to each of the characters, and I really enjoyed how the perspective changes as the story goes on. I appreciated how challenging it must have been to write a multiple-perspective story that doesn’t switch back and forth, it just evolves. I thought it was a creative and fitting way to tell this particular story.
My feelings about the writing in this book are complicated. Usually, I’m a huge fan of breaking the rules, so long as it’s done well. And I feel like Cohen definitely has the talent to do it right. In Moving Kings, he definitely shows that he can write. However, I felt the writing was a bit distracting. I couldn’t help but notice every time Cohen broke a “writing rule”, and I don’t think it always had the desired effect. I also think it happened a bit too often. It felt like it was written by a writer who wanted his readers to know how good of a writer he is. And while the writing was actually good, I just think it was a bit overwritten at times. That said, I feel like I’m much more sensitive to writing that most readers (I do have a master’s degree in English and creative writing, it comes with the territory), so if this sort of thing doesn’t bother you, you might enjoy this book a bit more than I did.
Overall, I did like the story. I thought it was a creative look at the immigrant experience, and spoke to the impossibility of the American dream However, I had a lot of trouble with the pacing, especially for such a short book. There were a few subplots or flashbacks that I felt went on a little too long, and I was impatient to move on with the story. I struggled to feel invested in the novel, even though I liked the characters. Ultimately, I just didn’t like it as much as I wanted to.
★★★☆☆ – Moving Kings was a good book, I’m just not sure it was the right book for me. However, I am glad to have read it, because it was so different than anything I’ve read before. If the synopsis sounds interesting, I’d say give it a shot, because I can definitely see some of you really enjoying this one!
Moving Kings will be in stores starting tomorrow, July 11. You can order your copy on Amazon now!
To get the audiobook for free, use this link to sign up for a free trial of Audible and choose Moving Kings as one of your two free books.
Moving Kings was generously provided to me by Random House. All opinions are my own.