Rated 4 Stars
Beautifully written, absorbing novel set in the thirteenth century. Highly recommended.
Crafting a richly textured, absorbing novel based on the life of her ancestor, renowned thirteenth-century Jewish scholar Meir ben Baruch of Rothenberg, Michelle Cameron paints a page-turning and deeply personal portrait of Judaism in medieval France and Germany. Imagined through the eyes of Rabbi Meir's wife, Shira, this opulent drama reveals a devout but independent woman who struggles to preserve her religious traditions while remaining true to herself as she and her family witness the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe.
Raised by her widowed rabbi father and a Christian nursemaid in Normandy, Shira is a free-spirited, inquisitive girl whose love of learning shocks the community. But in Meir ben Baruch, a brilliant scholar, she finds her soul mate and a window on the world of Talmudic scholarship that fascinates her.
Married to Meir in Paris, Shira blossoms as a wife and mother, savoring the intellectual and social challenges that come with being the wife of a prominent scholar. After every copy of the Talmud in Paris is confiscated and burned, Shira and her family seek refuge in Germany. Yet even there they experience bloody pogroms and intensifying hatred. As Shira weathers heartbreak and works to find a middle ground between two warring religions, she shows her children and grandchildren how to embrace the joys of life, both secular and religious.
A multigenerational novel that captures a hitherto little-known part of history with deep emotion and riveting authenticity -- and includes an illuminating author's note and a Hebrew glossary -- The Fruit of Her Hands is a powerful novel about the enduring spirit of the Jewish people.