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Safekeeping: A Novel Paperback – June 9, 2015
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“Luminous, irreverent, and ambitious....Full of romance, tragedy, betrayal, and the constant reminder that chaos is a driving force in everyone’s story, Safekeeping is a wise and memorable debut by a novelist of great talent and originality.” — The Boston Globe
“A book that is greater than the sum of its parts. A complex, beautiful story about the inheritance of Jewish history.” — The Globe and Mail
"One of the most assured debut novels in years....It's a page-turner that satisfies all the cravings of escapist reading while meeting the real world head-on." — The Montreal Gazette
"A pleasurable and engulfing read." — The Jerusalem Post
“This beautiful story of loss and hope sweeps artfully through 600 years of Jewish resilience. With its richly drawn, believable characters and its great sensitivity, Hope’s novel is a striking debut.” — Booklist
“When a debut novel comes along and dares just enough and hits the right notes, it deserves our attention.” — Tablet Magazine
“This emotional journey will leave readers with aching hearts and deepened empathy for the waifs and strays of our world.” — Shelf Awareness (starred review)
“An intricate tapestry of love and longing, failure and redemption. Not every character will be saved but readers will keep rooting for them.” — Library Journal
"[Jessamyn Hope] may be a first-time author, but she’s already a master storyteller." — Washington Jewish Week
"Gorgeously written, evocative novel." — Colorado Review
One of The Boston Globe's "Suggested Summer Reads" for 2015.
A New York Public Library Staff Pick
Winner of the J.I. Segal Award in English Fiction
Finalist for the Ribalow Prize
Finalist for the 2016 Paterson Fiction Prize
Included on BuzzFeed Books' "53 Books You Won't Be Able to Put Down”
Praise for Jessamyn Hope's Safekeeping:
“A summer on a kibbutz; a disparate cast of characters torn by their own past lives and the inescapable burdens of history; a plot driven by a valuable gold brooch crafted by a master goldsmith in the Middle Ages: from these seemingly ordinary materials Jessamyn Hope has wrought something wonderful. I don’t mean simply that her plot is compelling, utterly lucid, and deeply resonant, which it is; or that her troubled characters are created with both deep compassion and clear-eyed skepticism, which they are; or even that she writes brilliantly, which she does. What’s most wonderful about Safekeeping is the author’s uncanny sense of how much of the world can be understood by keen attention to its smallest particulars, and how meaningfulness will multiply when you refuse to force upon the reader your own personal meanings. Like the exquisite gold brooch that shimmers emblematically at its center, Safekeeping seems to glow with a rich patina of timelessness, the sign of true art. Listen, do yourself a huge favor, read this book.” — Mark Dintenfass, author of Old World, New World and A Loving Place
"There is no writer whose first novel I have awaited more eagerly than Jessamyn Hope, and Safekeeping surpasses my expectations. It's a brilliant and captivating novel about the past, the present, and the future, about love and legacy, and it is written with Hope's singular blend of intelligence, clarity, and grace. I am very happy it is finally here among us." — Peter Cameron, author of Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You and Coral Glynn
"This globetrotting, century-hopping novel is extraordinary. Fearless and tender, Jessamyn Hope holds in her hands both the sweep of history and the intricacies of the human heart. Lives shaped by larger forces must still be lived, and with desire and fear, strength and frailty, the characters in Safekeeping movingly struggle towards transformation. These are people and a story that will stick with me." — Caitlin Horrocks, author of This Is Not Your City
"With a sharp eye and a masterful hand, Jessamyn Hope brings to life the complex world of one Israeli kibbutz—from the troubled young volunteers to the new immigrant Russians to its old embattled Socialist founders—during a single sweltering Middle Eastern summer. Rich in history, lavish in its portrayal of place, and fueled by an exciting tale about a jewel that must be restored to its rightful owner, Safekeeping is a terrifically absorbing read by a writer who knows what she’s talking about. I was hooked from the first page." — Joan Leegant, author of Wherever You Go and An Hour in Paradise
“In Safekeeping, Jessamyn Hope explores the manifold contradictions of the people drawn to Israel as elegantly as the medieval jeweler who designed the heirloom brooch that dramatically catalyzes her plot. Both passionate and compassionate, the novel is a joy to read.” — Melvin Jules Bukiet, author of After: A Novel and editor of Nothing Makes You Free: Writings by Descendants of Jewish Holocaust Survivors
"In Safekeeping, Jessamyn Hope introduces an extraordinary cast of characters and by way of their desires and secrets weaves an intricate and moving portrait of humanity. Hope is an enormously skillful storyteller, providing great suspense while also creating the daily patterns of these memorable lives." — Jill McCorkle, author of Life After Life and Going Away Shoes
"I hadn't read very far into Jessamyn Hope's beautiful novel before I knew I was in the presence of a unique talent. Her voice is unlike anyone else's, and she knows these characters inside out and has made them come alive in these gorgeously written pages. Safekeeping is cause for celebration. I admired every word of it." — Steve Yarbrough, author of The Realm of Last Chances and Safe from the Neighbors
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The title fits the book well because this is the story of a young man who is guarding something with his life. The guarding of this object has become his life, or the only positive part of it, unless you count drug highs before they crash. Adam is the product of a dysfunctional or almost nonexistent family background, and is now quite a hardcore drug addict in New York City. He does all manner of drugs including rivers of alcohol, but is bottoming out from heroin as we meet him, in what is a chilling opening sequence. He is trying to get clean. Adam tends to keep his hand in his pocket a lot, holding on to something in there.
I say his family life was almost nonexistent, as it consisted mainly of an elderly grandfather. This fellow, elegant in his faded way, has a secret that he has kept from all the world but for his live-in grandson. He owns a piece of jewelry worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, if it’s not priceless. Only later do we learn how old the brooch is, and what it meant to the life of the solitary grandfather, and the larger Jewish culture around him. Safekeeping stands apart from other examinations of Jewish life that I’ve read, in that it is so gritty, and street-level. No doctors and lawyers here. The action takes place almost entirely on a kibbutz in Israel, and the place is nothing fancy. Indeed, I was impressed that the author could make such a stark, institutional setting so vibrant and alive. Of course part of it was that she describes the fields, and natural wonders of fruit trees and living, growing places in the agricultural settlement. But then we have the people.
The author does not fixate on her main character. We are served up a rich tableau of personalities here, almost all of them struggling. There are no cushy scenes; these people are about surviving. We are also not drowned in sub-plots. The characters ultimately tie in to the main thrust of the story, which is a wonder: The junkie, Adam, is obsessed with returning the fabulous sapphire brooch to the woman his grandfather intended to have it. Adam sees doing as this being the redemption of his otherwise wasted youth, and the pivot into a new life. He has only the sketchiest information left to him after his grandfather dies. But the woman in question had lived on the Sadot Hadar kibbutz in 1947, when the grandpa arrived there more dead than alive after his release from a concentration camp.
If Adam’s quest seems unbelievable (wouldn’t an addict just sell the brooch and get high?) I can tell you that the author makes it work. Adam’s drive to achieve this spiritual mission is just barely greater than his addiction. We are shown that an ancient tradition exists in his family’s branch of Judaism of a man giving one special gift to one special woman in his life. There can be only that one. Adam seeks to fulfill his grandfather’s life by giving the gift and making the connection that was interrupted so long ago. Not every last brain cell of Adam’s head is explained for us, which works for me, because the human heart is unexplainable.
This author takes chances and breaks rules with great effect, as well. Flashbacks are woven into the flow of real time events seamlessly, the way memories come to you as you go about your day. The omniscient narrator style appears, including multiple points of view occurring within a single paragraph. Jessamyn Hope makes it work. There is much more I could say, but to sum it up, the writing is from the heart. It communicates in a straightforward way, nothing flamboyant and overwrought. The descriptions of settings and human personalities are superb. Five stars.
One of my all-time favorite quotes about story comes from E.L. Doctorow: “What is the past if not the present and the future?” He’s talking about historical fiction, but his quote speaks to the importance of stories and fits well with the heart of Jessamyn Hope’s debut novel, Safekeeping, a book woven together with themes of loss and survival in the face of recurring physical, mental, or political hardship. An ancient and precious brooch acts as the centerpiece in Hope's book, as characters untangle and reason through life experiences, past and present. And the story of brooch itself becomes the bridge between generations and cultures, a symbol of the human spirit. The book’s cover reflects the beauty and intricacy of this well-drawn novel, and once you enter the “Fields of Splendor” with one of the protagonists, Adam, you won’t be able to put it down.
This is not a perfect novel, at times I felt the author was taking on too many story lines, but it was very thought-provoking and a great book club read!
Most recent customer reviews
Why did I finish it.? I was injured and confined for a while.