Yemen in 1920: After passage of the Orphan's Decree, any unbetrothed Jewish child left orphaned will be instantly adopted by the local Muslim community. With her parents' health failing, and no spousal prospects in sight, Adela Damari's situation looks dire until her uncle arrives from a faraway city, bringing with him a cousin and aunt who introduce Adela to the powerful rituals of henna tattooing. Suddenly, Adela's eyes are opened to the world, and she begins to understand what it means to love another and one's heritage. She is imperiled, however, when her parents die and a prolonged drought threatens their long-established way of life. She and her extended family flee to the city of Aden where Adela encounters old loves, discovers her true calling, and is ultimately betrayed by the people and customs she once held dear.
"...the novel is a welcome glimpse into this historical moment and little-known culture. (Booklist)
"A captivating and evocative novel, at once intensely intimate and sweeping in scope. Nomi Eve is a wonderful writer - compassionate, intelligent, assured - and her deeply felt, richly imagined book will stay with me for a long time." (Molly Antopol, author of The UnAmericans)
"This was a book I had to read twice: the first time to rush through quickly to find out what will ultimately happen to the characters, and the second time to slowly savor the descriptions of these marvelous, exotic people and locales. Nomi Eve captivated me." (Maggie Anton, author of Rashi's Daughters and Rav Hisda's Daughter)
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Interesting but not great.
It took me a while to get through this book. I read & listened to several other books while working on this one. I would get bored and so go to another but then come back to see what happened to certain characters.
Best thing about this book was the information about Yemenite Jewish culture. I really didn't know much about this interesting culture/sect of Jews. It was very interesting to learn about their ways and about henna. For that reason I would recommend the book - but the plot & characters are not fascinating or entrancing. But I did finish the book and was satisfied with how it all wrapped up.
Narrator was okay.
I really enjoyed learning about the customs and traditions of the Yemen people.
Of course, Adela. Her character was ethereal and pragmatic which was interesting. She perfumed her speech and her henna story.
I think she captured the character well.
I love the gathering of the woman. It reminded me of "The Red Tent". The same kind of camaraderie and love amongst the woman. It was beautiful.
I would recommend this book to anyone who loves history and tradition. It is a book about women for women or for men who want to know more about women. It is of a time long gone, but also of a time we should hold dear and maybe start again. It was beautiful.
- Maria A. Cosenza