cover image Ahoti: A Story of Tamar

Ahoti: A Story of Tamar

Miriam Feinberg Vamosh and Eva Marie Everson. Paraclete, $22 (240p) ISBN 978-1-640-60898-6

Vamosh (The Scroll) and Everson (The Ornament Keeper) put an empowering spin on the biblical story of Tamar, the daughter of King David. A respected healer in her father’s court, Tamar is commanded to minister to her half-brother Amnon, a “beast of a man” suffering from a mysterious “illness” that was only a pretense to rape her. David refuses to punish him and, worse, it becomes clear that Tamar’s brother Absalom helped orchestrate the rape to usurp power from Amnon, heir to the throne of Judah. Reeling from the assault and her family’s betrayal, Tamar relies on her servant, Mara, and her father’s benevolent advisers Gad, Nathan, and Mephiboseth to help her flee the palace. She strikes out on her own as a healer in the city of Abel, where she gains power and dreams of traveling to Geshur, the home of her long-banished mother Maacah. Vamosh and Everson’s characters are made three-dimensional through evocative descriptive language (Amnon is “a scorpion quietly biding its time beneath a colorful tapestry”). The revisions to the original story—in the Bible, Tamar eventually dies “desolate” in Absalom’s household—uplift, even if the propulsive plot leaves little room to develop her motivations. Still, it’s a welcome and often gripping portrait of the unsung courage of a biblical heroine. (May)