Staircase of a Thousand Steps: Book summary and reviews of Staircase of a Thousand Steps by Masha Hamilton

Staircase of a Thousand Steps

By Masha Hamilton

Staircase of a Thousand Steps
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  • Published in USA  May 2001,
    288 pages.

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Book Summary

In a remote desert village of storytellers and seers, the accidental revelation of long-held secrets, including a forbidden love affair, unravels a young girl's world.

Staircase of a Thousand Steps lifts the veil from a mystical land, where jasmine and dung mix and the inconceivable is embraced as commonplace.

In a Middle Eastern village that traces its history back to Abraham, the men gather nightly beneath a tree named Moses' Finger, and the women meet at a place where "the earth breathes."

But the midwife Faridah possesses transcendent wisdom and a dangerous scorn for tradition. And the shepherd Harif, seer and village outsider, weaves stories in an effort to protect his fragile status. While Harif's granddaughter, Jammana, struggles between the allure of the ancient world and the tensions of a modern age.

Through an ancestral gift, Jammana experiences the memories of those closest to her - Faridah, Harif, and her mother, Rafa. But as she unwittingly uncovers the village's secrets, old grudges move like a slow burn across the fields and ignite.

Set in Transjordan just before the 1967 war with Israel, Staircase of a Thousand Steps braids a chorus of voices into a poetic, haunting tale of loyalty, longing, and accidental betrayal.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Hamilton is a natural storyteller: she weaves past and present artfully together, the narrative moves at a good clip and the mysticism throughout is rendered believably. Readers eager for a much different take on small-town hurts and rivalries will be intrigued by how these elements play out in this sheltered corner of the world." - Publishers Weekly

"At the novel's end, Grandfather exhorts Jammana to remember that 'Past and future are no more separate than the tree trunk from its branches.' His statement confirms much about the inevitable and often perilous clash of established customs with modern or unfamiliar ways, resulting in a tension that Hamilton movingly and beautifully expresses throughout this superior debut. Highly recommended." - Library Journal

"The prose is simple but elegant, and subtle interweaving of the mystical and the mundane makes the novel delightfully compelling." - Booklist

"Starred Review. Here, in a luminous debut, are the voices, real and rarely heard, of traditional Arab women." - Kirkus

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Author Information

Masha Hamilton Author Biography

Masha Hamilton is the author of four acclaimed novels, most recently 31 Hours (2009), a Washington Post selection for one of the best novels of the year and an Indie Choice pick by independent booksellers. The Post wrote: "Hamilton has used both her considerable empathy as a writer and her experience in the Middle East to create an intimate portrait ... (She's) made it very hard to tear your gaze away." Publisher's Weekly called it "gorgeous and complex." Hamilton is also the founder of two world literacy programs: the Camel Book Drive, begun in 2007 to supply a camel-borne library in northeastern Kenya, and the Afghan Women's Writing Project, begun in 2009 to foster creative and intellectual exchange between Afghan women writers and American women authors and ...

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