Saturday, March 23, 2013

Readings and Greetings: The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman

I would have enjoyed being a time traveler or better yet a world traveler, but I spent a career as a librarian/storyteller.  So my worldly travels rely on my imagination and the pages written between covers of  dynamic literature.

As a result, I spent some time suffering in the ancient heat of the Judean Desert on a mountain top known to the world as Masada.  In her book The Dovekeepers Alice Hoffman tells the story of how nine hundred Jews held out against the Roman Legions, but she made the story unique by telling it through the eyes of four women, who came to live at Masada and endured the brutality of life in those times.  She based the entire fictional story on one piece of documented fact taken from the historian Josephus.  In his account, he reported that two women and five children survived the massacre on the night when the Jews committed mass suicide rather than submit to the Roman Legion.

I can't say I enjoyed the story, but  I can say, "I couldn't stop reading once I began, and I will forever be haunted by their lives."  I must also confess that I cheated.  I needed to have the book finished by a certain date for book club, but simply couldn't meet the deadline.  Instead,  I read the Part One and finished every word in Part Four.  I understood the story, but felt truly cheated for not knowing how my heroines survived, so over the next two evenings after book club I finished the story.  Rightfully so, each strong woman in the story deserved her chapter and her life retold.  It's not a book peace and love:  it's a book of loneliness, of desire, of desperation, of love, of violence, of intolerance of people of different faith, of strength and resolve, and of a mother's desire to see her children live.  The Dovekeepers  is powerfully written through the shadows, hidden in our hearts.

If you read this book, please let me know your thoughts.  Which woman's story affected you the most?  What theme tore into your heart?  What compelled you to read their stories?

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