THE GENIZAH AT THE HOUSE OF SHEPHER

Tamar Yellin, Author . Toby Press $19.95 (400p) ISBN 978-1-59264-085-0

The history of the family Shepher is a "record of theft, domestic discord, mutual blame-laying and bad luck." Despite that—or perhaps because of it—this British author's debut novel is warm and engrossing, rich with historical detail and unmet yearning. The discovery of a mysterious, handwritten volume of the Bible, apparently the property of biblical scholar Shulamit Shepher's great-grandfather, brings Shulamit from her home in England back to her family's small bungalow in Jerusalem. There, in an attempt to unravel the book's origins, she recounts her family's troubled history, beginning with her great-grandfather Shalom, who disappeared for two years and returned addlebrained and clutching this strange book, known thereafter only as the Codex. Shulamit has inherited her great-grandfather's scholarly interests, but not his traditional Jewish practice. Still, she welcomes the attentions of a religious zealot named Gideon Ben Gibreel—who seeks the Codex for reasons he won't reveal—even as she tries to decide whether the book is the key to reviving her academic career. More than anything, this wide-ranging novel is a meditation on the power of the Holy City, able to restore or shake the faith of whoever enters. As Shulamit notes, "Of all the cities of the world Jerusalem has one of the shabbiest gates of arrival, and coming or going one is greeted by graves." (Apr.)

Reviewed on: 02/07/2005
Release date: 04/01/2005
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 344 pages - 978-0-312-37907-0
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