The best book I read this month was an unexpected pleasure. I'd never heard of it before it was chosen by my book club to be our July read. What a gem I would have missed if they hadn't!
Henna House by Nomi Eve was a little slow to start but ultimately proved to be a rich, engaging read. It took me a while to get through the first 70 pages. I raced through the last 70.
Henna House tells the story of a Jewish girl growing up in Yemen in the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s, starting with her youth in a rural Yemeni village and ending with her immigration to the new state of Israel.
While the Holocaust does figure in the story's epilogue, it is not a central component of the story. That in itself was remarkable. So many works of literature about Jewish characters are stories of the Holocaust, and while it is important to remember the Holocaust, the Jewish experience is so much more than that one event. It was refreshing to read a book that not only reflects part of that broader experience but also speaks to the diversity of the global Jewish population.
Bonus Recommendation: Savage Liberty by Eliot Pattison
This month, I was equally transported by another book, too: Savage Liberty by Eliot Pattison. Liberty is the fifth book in Patterson's Early America mystery series, and by far the best. Set a few years before the outbreak of the Revolutionary War, Savage Liberty incorporates many historical figures who made their names during the Revolution--including John Hancock, Samuel Adams, Ethan Allen. But at the center of the story, as in the rest of the series, is Highlander Duncan McCallum and his Haudenosaunee friend, Conawago. (The first book in the series, Bone Rattler, explains how their paths crossed and their friendship formed.) Together, they seek answers about the sabotage of a merchant ship and the murders of rangers who served during the French and Indian War.
What I especially love about this series is that Pattison shows the diversity of the colonial population. His stories are populated by more than just white men. And while I would like to see more women in these stories, I am grateful for the inclusion of a variety of Native American cultures and colonial settlers, including, in this story, a Jewish character.