Harper, May 31 2011, $14.99
In 1911 Jerusalem, the Kaminsky family like their ancestors for generations is Haredi Jews who believe in a strict interpretation of the Torah. The Haredi adhere to a divided by gender lifestyle with males studying and enforcing Torah while females stayed at home to raise children and praying one will be the Messiah or sit behind curtains. Esther Kaminsky wants to break the restrictions as she desperately wants to pursue art in France; of which she has shown a propensity. However, her family expects her to marry a good Haradi man and bear children with him as they will raise their offspring in the same way she was raised. When her mother dies, her hope to escape her expected life dies too. Obeying her father as she feels guilty that God punished her family due to her dreams and her forbidden activities, Esther marries a modern Jaffa Jew, sending her away from the city she loves.
In 1924 circumstances and a miraculous opportunity enable Esther to travel to Paris. She muses about God working in mysterious ways as affirmed by her roundabout way to come to the city she dreamed of studying art in until her mom died.
This is a delightful historical tale of the life of a Jewish woman raised in Jerusalem during the last days of the Ottoman Empire as Jews “bloom the desert”. Esther is a terrific individual who believes her dreams and other actions led directly to the family tragedy as God punished her for failing to follow scripture. Although the ending seems weak compared to the travels of Esther to get there, fans will relish this deep spotlight on being Jewish in the early twentieth century Holy Land.