Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
The Promised Land Paperback – May 31, 2012
|New from||Used from|
The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
About the Author
Ruhama Veltfort's poems and stories have appeared in Whispering Campaign, The Antrim Review, The Noe Valley Voice and Sound Journal. The Promised Land, her first novel,was first published by Milkweed Editions in 1998 to excellent reviews. It has since been reissued in a Kindle edition (2011). A memoir, The Things We Do For Love: Stories of My Life was published in 2010 by Wordrunner Press. She is also the author of two poetry chapbooks, Whispers of a Dreamer (Hollow Reed Press, 1983) and Miles on the Bridge (Wordrunner Chapbooks, 1997). A new collection of her poems, Translation of Light, is online at www.echapbook.com. She is currently at work on a novel about war trauma. Her latest novel, Strange Attractors, is forthcoming in 2012 from BeWrite Books (Canada).
If you buy a new print edition of this book (or purchased one in the past), you can buy the Kindle edition for only $1.99 (Save 60%). Print edition purchase must be sold by Amazon. Learn more.
For thousands of qualifying books, your past, present, and future print-edition purchases now lets you buy the Kindle edition for $2.99 or less. (Textbooks available for $9.99 or less.)
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
Veltfort has published two books of poetry, and her poetic training shows in the way she carefully builds her characters, focusing on their inner worlds and perceptions, and tesing out a number of tensions. The reader feels the strain that both Yitzhak and Chana feel as they try to create a wholly new life while maintaining their religious traditions. Veltfort's scholarship is faultless, and she provides significant and realistic detail on the spoken languages, the religious and social customs, from the setting and clothing to the types of traditions, foods, rituals, and prayers which are used in this now lost world of the Orthodox Polish shtetl.
Switching voice throughout the book could have been jarring and tricky in a lesser writer's hands, but Veltfort manages the transitions smoothly. The chapters alternate between Yitzhak and Chana, and follow each other closely in time and place, although sometimes there are time based overlaps. These overlapping chapters add depth to the story as we view scenes from two separate angles, and work because they move in sync. Although the story follows this Jewish family, and focuses very minutely on their customs, prayers, and beliefs, there is never any confirmation that Yitzhak is anything other than an intense young man. While the novel slouches slightly towards magic realism, the double voice enables the reader to maintain enough of a distance to create a tension. It is quite possible that Yitzhak is a visionary. It is equally possible that he is either deluded, or just masking his natural spirituality and adventurousness with a kind of overarching religiousness. This tension helps drive the novel forward.
Other characters like the Yitzhak's odd rhyming twin Feigl, her intense husband Asher, the fiddler Chaim Loeb, the unlikely disciple Mo, the robber baron type Cohn, or the sharp Madame Estella also add colour. Estella's callousness towards her slaves, and the issues of emancipation, the war for Mexico, and the pioneer expansion westward are also plot points which help add interest to the story. The book is the story of a particular passage, and a particular people during a particular time and place, but it is also an internal journal, as Yitzhak and Chana become exiles, leaving a country which is rapidly changing and try to find a new home and sense of place. The book is true to the Orthodox Jewish customs, taking the reader through many Sabbath celebrations, and quoting whole prayers, its strength is in the mystical, spirituality of the main character's vision, rather than their religious rituals.
Later too, Yitzhak achieves a similar sense if ecstasy during a fundamentalist Christian revival meeting, and is shocked when he finally notices that the "brethren" are singing about Jesus. There are other touches of mysticism, such as Yitzhak's occasional power to heal the dying, and his uncontrollable desire to speak the forbidden name of his god: "this song was new, he had never heard it until it burst from him, until he pronounced the unpronounceable name YaHuVeh God is one!"(230)
Chana too dabbles on the edge of a mystical ecstasy, albeit a more earthy female one which works as a kind of mirror to Yitzhak's.
After such close concentration and small motions in the early part of the story, the ending tends to move forward in too much of a rush, and Chana's last chapter (20) covers so much ground that it functions more as an epilogue than a natural part of the story. One wonders whether this could have made a good sequel, leaving the ending more open, although I suppose readers tend to like resolution. A sequel from Chaya's daughter's perspective perhaps is a natural follow up. In any case, this is an engrossing and very well written book. At one point in the book Yitzhak tells his small band of disciples and his wife a story: "The tzaddik knew the secret of bringing together the inner and outer worlds." The same could be said of Veltfort.