cover image THE COVENANT


Naomi Ragen, . . St. Martin's, $24.95 (288pp) ISBN 978-0-312-29119-8

Ragen, an American writer who's lived in Israel for more than 30 years, blends tragedies of the past with headline news of today in her gripping, emotionally charged sixth novel. It's 2002, and the Margulies family—oncologist Jonathan; his pregnant, American-born wife, Elise; and their daughter, Ilana—are contentedly living in a Jerusalem settlement, until one day, on their way home, Jonathan and Ilana are kidnapped by Hamas. Elise's frantic call to her Bubbee Leah in Brooklyn reunites four women—now grandmas and great-grandmas—who, as girls, made the titular covenant: if they survived Auschwitz, they would become "one person, risking everything, giving everything, to help each other live in happiness all the days of our lives." Leah gathers up fellow New Yorker Esther, now a cosmetics millionaire; Paris nightclub owner Ariana; and Polish political activist Maria to help find the kidnap victims. It's a race against time, as the women wield their considerable influence and the Israeli army desperately tries to intercede with the kidnappers before the captives are killed. Ragen weaves in deeper, more serious undertones than the thriller plot suggests, touching on the stubborn pride and the serious purpose that keeps Israelis fighting (or, in some cases, not fighting) for their fragile country, "the land that God promised to the Jewish people in his Covenant to Abraham." Agent, Lisa Bankoff. (Nov.)