No Laughter in Winter is a story that could have developed with similar characters anywhere in the world. The plot is unique but its themes are universal. The narrative begins in Poland and Lithuania, and moves along to Palestine, Israel, and the United States, depicting a bygone period of nation building, with its intense love and tragedy, and lives forever changed by conflict and war. It includes astonishing tales of fate and suspense under the watching eyes of the British, who controlled the area from 1922 to1948, and it traces the author’s personal history to the immigration of her family from Eastern Europe to Palestine, and her visits in 2008 and 2010 to her parent’s hometowns in Lithuania and Poland.
It depicts happy childhood summers in an era of romanticism and idealism, contrasting with winters, the season her mother suffered from deep depressions; and it describes life in her family’s small apartment and the memories of a simple and innocent childhood, portraying, too, her neighborhood, detailing traumatic events, such as abuse, abandonment, madness and suicide, and the way neighbors cared for each other.
Her schooldays are marked by her mother’s mental disorder; her years in high school and her mandatory military service reveal events that helped her formulate her sense of justice, perseverance, and leadership.
It describes her life as a young woman, leading up to her wedding to a man too popular among women. She takes her revenge just days before his sudden death in the 1967 Six Day War. It brings to life the horrific scene when she sees him burnt beyond recognition moments before his death, and her dealing with this profound tragedy and the resulting loss of their unborn child.
The book then moves forward with her first year of widowhood. Considered exceptionally “beautiful,” in that period she was pursued by men who looked at young widows as an easy prey. It tells about her romances with married men, powerful and charismatic, and her turning into an activist. But so enslaving is her love affair with one of the best known figures in Israel, that she decides to escape, leaving behind the life she knows.
She tells of her culture shock upon arriving in New York City and the agony of being raped by her fallen husband’s best friend. Ultimately she marries her American husband, stays in New York, and rebuilds her life.
It ends with an epilogue that is a tale of her journey in 1995-96 to Israel and the Palestinian Authority with a Fulbright scholarship, interviewing women, who like her were bereaved or aggrieved by war.