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  • My Choice for best book of 2009: The Fruit of Her Hands: The Story of Shira of Ashkenaz by Michelle...
My Choice for best book of 2009: The Fruit of Her Hands: The Story of Shira of Ashkenaz by Michelle Cameron
Contributor
Written by
Kim Chernin
November 2009
Contributor
Written by
Kim Chernin
November 2009

Dear Michelle, although we've never met, I thought I'd write to you directly. I had many responses to your novel as I was reading; I'll try to catch hold of some of them. I think what I loved best was the seamless way in which a personal story, a family story, a Jewish story, a story of the Jewish community and its ways was woven into the larger historic background of the 13th Century. You were able to give a visceral sense of Jewish life, both as family and community, so vivid, so filled with speaking-details, and also to render the threat and insecurity with which these people were constantly living. I think I said already that I loved your main character. I can't, simply can't believe that she was invented. In fact, I refuse to believe it and therefore prefer to think that the spirit of this silenced woman from centuries ago found her way to you and through you. Specifics: wonderful dialogue, vivid scenes, tenderness in the relationships between people, a careful observation of the rough edges and difficulties. The book is a page-turner but when I was approaching the end I forced myself to slow down so that I wouldn't have to leave the world you created. Some scenes I will hold life-long as if from my own lived-experience. Paris and the books. Lincoln and the heart-break. And so many of those luminous domestic scenes...when Shira meets her step-mother and is surprised by who she is. Oh how glad I was! Could go on and on...will end by sending you very hearty congratulations. A truly wonderful and accomplished book.

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