From Publishers Weekly
The history of the family Shepher is a "record of theft, domestic discord, mutual blame-laying and bad luck." Despite that--or perhaps because of it--this British author's debut novel is warm and engrossing, rich with historical detail and unmet yearning. The discovery of a mysterious, handwritten volume of the Bible, apparently the property of biblical scholar Shulamit Shepher's great-grandfather, brings Shulamit from her home in England back to her family's small bungalow in Jerusalem. There, in an attempt to unravel the book's origins, she recounts her family's troubled history, beginning with her great-grandfather Shalom, who disappeared for two years and returned addlebrained and clutching this strange book, known thereafter only as the Codex. Shulamit has inherited her great-grandfather's scholarly interests, but not his traditional Jewish practice. Still, she welcomes the attentions of a religious zealot named Gideon Ben Gibreel--who seeks the Codex for reasons he won't reveal--even as she tries to decide whether the book is the key to reviving her academic career. More than anything, this wide-ranging novel is a meditation on the power of the Holy City, able to restore or shake the faith of whoever enters. As Shulamit notes, "Of all the cities of the world Jerusalem has one of the shabbiest gates of arrival, and coming or going one is greeted by graves." (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
*Starred Review* Yellin's first novel is impossible to put down. Both genealogical history and treasure hunt, it is one of those books that winds the reader in gauzy layers of ancient and recent history, woven into confusing patterns but somehow not losing sight of each other. The protagonist, an independent and single biblical scholar named Shula,is deeply connected to her family's history but not especially interested in either her own present or future. Tracing her genealogy through four generations to her great-grandfather Shepher, she learns of his purported journey to unknown lands to seek the lost tribes of Israel. More than 100 years later, a codex--a very early copy of the five books of Moses--is found in the Shepher family home outside Jerusalem shortly before the building is slated for demolition. Shula returns to the house, site of family vacations throughout her childhood, to find the remaining family in tumult, unsure of what to do with this archaeological treasure. When a strange man arrives to beg Shula to give him the codex, she is tornbetween her disconnection from her living family and her desire to honor its ancient past, however improbable it might sound. Although Shula's personal life and inner struggles do not truly resolve themselves, the story of the codex and the Shepher family history are more than enough to pull this novel through with beauty, deep love, and a timelessness thatwill likely make it a classic. Debi LewisCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved