by Maayan Jaffe
Wow! That is the first reaction to Naomi Ragen’s recent re-release (with some new material) of her first novel, Jephte’s Daughter. The novel, a full 443 pages, is bursting with drama, suspense, romance and religion.
The novel centers around stunning, young woman named Batsheva Ha-Levi, the only daughter of an affluent Hassid. The man, a Holocaust survivor, was the last remnant of his family’s dynasty and his only dream was to carry on his family’s legacy through his daughter and the grandchildren he expected her to give him. When Batsheva turned 18, her father arranged a marriage for her to a Jerusalem scholar who he expected would be fitting to carry on the family name.
For a pampered California girl who was used to shopping on Rodeo Drive and spending free time taking exquisite photographs and swimming in her parents’ garden pool, such a marriage was shocking and somewhat frightening. Nonetheless, Batsheva envisioned the match as a new chance for freedom and an opportunity to live half-way around the world in the home of her people.
When Batsheva enters her new world, she discovers Jerusalem is all she hoped it would be. However, she realizes too late that the man to whom she has signed her life is not as she believed. What ensues is the transformation of a young girl into a woman, as she endures a personal struggle with her family, her community and her faith. Fighting for her survival and that of her young son, Batsheva is forced to make grueling decisions that affect not only her life, but the existence of all those she has touched and who have touched her.
“Jephte’s Daughter” is a thrilling, complex work and this reviewer would highly recommend it to anyone looking for a book so enthralling it’s hard to put down.
The original text of the review may be found here.