The Real Laura: Yael Hedaya

Photo: Orna Itamar

Novelist Yael Hedaya wrote key episodes for the Israeli version of In Treatment. After its popularity caused the number of patients in Israel to skyrocket, HBO adapted the series for American audiences. Hedaya’s third book, Eden, reads like a psychologically astute Israeli version of American Beauty: Roni, not yet 16, has taken to sleeping with middle-aged men; someone in Eden, a collective farm turned SUV-infested suburb, is molesting young boys; one marriage is ending, another floundering over infertility. Hedaya spoke with Boris Kachka about the terrors (none of them involving Iran or suicide bombers) of living in her fictional but photo-realistic Israel.

You’ve written about therapy for TV, your next novel will be about therapy, and there’s a lot of psychological probing in Eden.Are you in therapy now?
I had stopped because I gave birth, and being a single mother of twins, I didn’t have the time to go. In my late twenties, I had these really romantic ideas about therapy. I’d fantasize about falling in love with my therapist, and I was busy trying to seduce him for, like, five years. Now I want to go because I have burning issues and I want help. I don’t want to mess around.

Your younger self sounds a lot like the [season one] In Treatment character Laura, who very nearly seduced her therapist, Gabriel Byrne’s character.
Laura was like the patient I wanted to be, the one that causes the therapist to do terrible things and be unethical. A lot of the sentences she throws at him I said to my therapist.

Laura is similar to Eden’s teenager, Roni. Both had sordid and damaging affairs with much older men.
I had a lot of relationships with older men when I was her age. I felt that I was in control, that I was the seductress. Today, I’m in my mid-forties, the age of the guys that I was with at 15. It’s shocking, and I totally condemn everything that I went through. It’s probably something that has been haunting me without my being conscious of it, and it came out in Laura’s character.

What brought you to write a novel set in suburbia?
I moved to the suburbs, which was radical for me. I wanted to move someplace with no neighbors around, where if I dropped dead—God forbid—nobody would smell my corpse for days. I lived in Tel Aviv and I lived in New York. And I loved being in a big city for a while; it was great. But all of a sudden it was like my fuses jumped and I couldn’t write anymore.

So you decided to write about how rotten suburbia is?
It was an attempt to criticize society in general, not just suburban society. Israel is going to the dogs. It used to be external enemies, and we used to be an okay nation with values. But something is happening, which is very much like what’s happening in the rest of the Western world. It’s not safe to live here, and not just because of the terror anvd bombs going off on buses, but because the people are becoming more violent, notwithstanding being Jewish or Arab.

Metropolitan Books, $35

The Real Laura: Yael Hedaya