- Paperback: 228 pages
- Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; Large Print edition (February 11, 2018)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1976594510
- ISBN-13: 978-1976594519
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.5 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 14.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 5 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,016,370 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Pyre To Fire Paperback – Large Print, February 11, 2018
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"The Spanish Inquisition in 1492 left no Jewish family untouched. The impact of this horrific period in Spain runs deep and it has had long-lasting effects upon Jewish families through the ages. Maria, a descendant of a Jewish family forced to convert to Catholicism, allows her gut feelings to rule her religious preferences, and she spends time researching her family's hidden past. As she begins to find more and more clues, she realizes that her soul is true to her Jewish roots, and she sets out to turn her own life upside down even if it means alienating her Catholic family members.
Genie Milgrom's Pyre to Fire contains two parallel story lines detailing the village of Fermoselle, Spain's sudden and devastating conversion to Catholicism and descendant Maria's slow but sure discovery of her family's painful secrets. The quest Milgrom lays out as part of Maria's search for answers is written in tandem with excerpts detailing Maria's ancestors' struggle in the 1490s. As a reader, I appreciated the parallels and the bounce between modern times and the historical descriptions. I am not versed in this aspect of world history and can easily say I feel equal parts of enlightenment and horror. Milgrom does a wonderful job of painting the trauma and the emotional struggle of the Jews in Spain being forced into conversion and threatened with their lives if they did not comply. Milgrom's characters, based on her own lineage, help draw a painfully clear picture of the atrocities and the pain experienced by Jewish families who battled for centuries as a result of having to choose to hide their rituals, worship practices, and adherence to dietary restrictions.
I found the heartbreaking life of Maria's ancestor, Catalina, and the circumstances in which she finds herself on the night of the inquisition to be among the most tragic I have read in historical fiction works. Catalina is faced with hiding, lying, and evading arrest. Her life, though she and her husband try everything in their power to make normal lives and honor their Jewish traditions, is a life of pure fear. Catalina is never afforded true happiness. Milgrom gives readers a tragic and historically accurate protagonist.
As I read, I had a little trouble getting past some errors that could have been prevented with proofreading. Two characters speaking within a single lengthy paragraph and some misplaced quotation marks and punctuation presented some challenges as I read.
This short read (just under 140 pages) gives readers a clear picture of the horrors inflicted on one group of people by another in the name of religion. Milgrom is helping raise awareness, encourage tolerance, and educating generations far removed from her characters' lives. Readers who are interested in history and curious about the details surrounding The Spanish Inquisition will find Pyre to Fire a great addition to their collection of literature."
Pages: 228 | ASIN: 1976594510
From the Author
This book was an important one for me as the information in it is 85 % Facts about my family of Conversos during the Spanish Inquisition. The little girl, Maria, in Miami, is a true portrayal of who I am and was in real life. All the facts have been found in archival material in Spain and Portugal. It is a fast moving and emotional read!
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Pyre to Fire is a historical fiction story that mainly takes place during the Spanish Inquisition. Set in 1492, the story follows the life of Catalina Levi, a Jewish girl who lives in an isolated town on the border of Spain. This small town had not yet felt the pain and sorrow that the Spanish Inquisition brought to many Jewish families, but they knew it would strike them eventually. Rather than sit back and wait for the worst to come the Jewish people in the town decided to take matters into their own hands.
Catalina’s father and Uncles are respected leaders in the Jewish community of Fermoselle. It is these three who come up with a plan for the whole community to follow. This plan will allow the Jewish families to keep their Jewish traditions without fear of being persecuted by the Inquisitors. They hope that by following this plan they can help other Jewish families get to safely out of the country and pass their scared traditions down for generations to come.
Although the town is in agreement with the plan the three brothers have come up with, Catalina is not. She strongly believes that hiding their Jewish traditions is wrong and she is unsure if she can live like that. After the Inquisitors come to town things go from bad to worse for Catalina and her family. After the town is “forced” into Catholicism, Catalina and her husband know they cannot stay and continue living a lie. The story goes on to follow Catalina and her husband as they make a new life for themselves, away from their beloved families and friends.
Pyre to Fire details the struggles and hardships that the Jewish people faced during the Spanish Inquisition, but at the same time offers you a bit of a feel good story. The reason that I only gave this book a 4 star rating is because it offers a dual narrative, one that you have to pay close attention to. Pyre to Fire not only follows Catalina’s adventure as she strives to find a safe place for her family, it also follows the struggles f one of Catalina’s descendants as they grow up and try to come to terms with why they feel they don’t belong. Genie Milgrom addresses what it is like to be on the outside looking in, of trying your hardest to fit in when you are born to be different.
The author tells this story amazingly. It is captivating, and the pain of the Jewish people comes through and makes you ache for them. It is a story that I think many can relate to, even if they are not Jewish because so many are persecuted for their born differences. It fits well with the political climate today, and I think it would behoove anyone to read this never to forget the past tragedies that people have faced. The Jewish people have again and again faced horrible persecution, and it is detailed to some extent in this novella.
Not only do we see the struggle of Catalina, her family, and the other Jewish people in this story, but we also see the struggle of Maria, the Cuban-Spanish woman. She struggles with her faith in Catholicism, it never feeling quite right with her. We see her family as she works through pain in her life as well. Maria’s interest in another religion is an intriguing tidbit of the story as Milgram simultaneously tells the fight of Catalina and having to convert from Judaism to Catholicism. It was an interesting comparison to see side-by-side.
The book has some action in it, and it is a little gruesome, but not overly detailed with gore. It showed a true strength in the person who inflicted the damage at that time, and it was not something I saw coming. That is another aspect of the book I liked, very little of it was predictable. What I was able to predict, it was not something that I could fully predict, which is a great part of any book is.
Milgram’s novella is hauntingly beautiful. While it is heartbreaking, it is a truth, and part of her family’s truth that needs to be told. It is thought-provoking and has the reader reflect on not only history but some of the current events. I am not usually one who likes historical fiction much, but I quite enjoyed this book and found it incredibly important. Its relevancy, and the way in which its written enthralls the reader. The book does leave you with some unanswered questions, but I think it adds to the book rather than leaving the reader disappointed. I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in history, the study of people, and even psychology because it touches on key points of survival and loss.