Title: Jerusalem Maiden
Author: Talia Carner
Publication Date: May 31, 2011
Paperback: 464 Pages
In the waning days of the Ottoman Empire, a young Orthodox Jewish woman in the holy city of Jerusalem is expected to marry and produce many sons to help hasten the Messiah’s arrival. While the feisty Esther Kaminsky understands her obligations, her artistic talent inspires her to secretly explore worlds outside her religion, to dream of studying in Paris—and to believe that God has a special destiny for her. When tragedy strikes her family, Esther views it as a warning from an angry God and suppresses her desires in order to become an obedient “Jerusalem maiden.”
But when a surprising opportunity forces itself on to her preordained path, Esther finds her beliefs clashing dangerously with the passions she has staved off her entire life—forcing her to confront the most difficult and damning question of all: To whom must she be true, God or herself?
When a book passes my way that makes me stop, think and utter “wow!”, I know it is a book I shall be sharing and Jerusalem Maiden by Talia Carner is just such a book. Carner takes the readers into early 20th Century Jerusalem, through the eyes of Esther Kaminsky. When the reader first becomes acquainted with Esther, she is a twelve year old growing up in an ultra-Orthodox Jewish family, in the Haredi community of Jerusalem, and has dreams of studying art. It is through Esther the reader learns not only about the history of Haredi, the beliefs, practices of the Haredi, in particular the lives of the women, but also about the history of Jerusalem. Esther brings the reader into this strict and structured world of family, faith and community and Esther’s internal struggle to have her own identity as well as staying true to her family and her religion as her world rapidly changes, internally and externally. Jerusalem Maiden is a spectacular look at a strict ultra-Orthodox society, the roles women are expected to play and, from a historical perspective, the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the strife born out by those residing in Jerusalem. Carner creates an exceptional protagonist in Esther and through extremely vivid descriptions, the reader will easily be transported to another time and for this reader, to a religion very foreign to me, and experience through Esther, the life of a woman living in a Haredi community. Jerusalem Maiden is a realistic, beautiful, and at times sad, yet always realistic look at life’s difficulties; the struggle for personal identity intermingles with community, faith, and family. While it is a bittersweet story, I would recommend Jerusalem Maiden to all readers and especially to book discussion groups.
Talia Carner is the former publisher of Savvy Woman magazine and a lecturer at international women economic forums.
To learn more about author Talia Carner please visit her website.
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I received an copy of Jerusalem Maiden by Talia Carner from TLC Book Tours to be a part of this tour and offer my honest review of the book. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of aforementioned book.