Summary and book reviews of The Family Orchard by Nomi Eve

The Family Orchard

by Nomi Eve

The Family Orchard
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  • First Published:
    Oct 2000, 328 pages
    Paperback:
    Sep 2001, 316 pages

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Book Summary

A multigenerational saga encompassing two hundred years in the life of an unforgettable family set in Jerusalem, from the early years of the nineteenth century to the present.

A magical, multigenerational saga encompassing two hundred years in the life of an unforgettable family--a book of love stories, ill-fated and blessed, sensuous as a dream, unfolding in a time and a place where fable is more potent than fact, where the imagination is more powerful than any truth, where the line between myth and history has all but dissolved: Jerusalem, from the early years of the nineteenth century to the present.

They left Eastern Europe for Israel and emerged, six generations later, in America: Esther, the family matriarch, who was lured by the smell of baking bread into the baker's arms; her granddaughter, Avra the thief, who stole a cow's tongue and married a man with strong fists and very fast feet; Miriam, a seamstress who sewed spells into her cloths and whose mesmerizing beauty inadvertently transformed Kovna's House of Study into a container of pure carnal frustration; the twins Zohar and Moshe, who ran across the walls of the Old City as boys, and as men faced a tragedy that would haunt their family for generations to come; Eliezer, Zohar's son, who once tried to conjure a golem in his father's garden; and Eliezer's American-born daughter, who would one day take his stories and cast a spell of her own.

Nomi Eve's debut novel is a rich tapestry of Jewish life and humor and yearning, woven from timeless themes: the evolution of family, the setting down of roots, the sorrow of immigrants and the joy of pioneers, the secrets that bind families together and the legends that sustain them. In language as uniquely vibrant as the characters who inhabit it, The Family Orchard captures the intoxications of love, tradition, and history, and the ineluctable forces that shape them. A deliciously engrossing novel, at once epic and intimate, from a storyteller of beguiling power and wisdom.

My father writes:

Rabbi Yochanan Schine, a student of the famous Chatam Sofer, was engaged to Esther Sophie Goldner Herschell, the granddaughter of the chief rabbi of the British Empire. Esther and Yochanan were my great-great-grandparents. They immigrated to Palestine and married in 1837 in Jerusalem.

I write:

Esther was pious but in a peripheral way. She knew the mitzvot, she knew to make the Sabbath holy, but she felt that there was no real harm in putting her own creative interpretation on the old rules because certainly creativity was an essential and blessed quality of Man and it would be a sin not to use it.

At first she did not like Jerusalem; she was from a long line of people who lacked sense of direction. The stony city, with all of its obscurant walls, twists and turns seemed to her a nasty place without any recognizable plan.

Three months and two days after the young couple arrived, she ventured out alone for the first time. Quickly lost, but not frightened,...

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Reviews

Media Reviews

New York Times

An ambitious first novel...Ms. Eve is a storyteller of uncommon energy and poise.

Kirkus Reviews

Strong echoes of Aleichem and Singer sound through out this ambitious first novel. . . . Often lyrically overpowering, bountifully imagined. This isn't the Jewish One Hundred Years of Solitude, but one suspects Eve may yet be capable of producing it.

Publisher's Weekly

The city of Jerusalem is a vibrant character in its own right; and the horticultural material is explained with intriguing clarity. Thirty-one linecuts of old prints augment a most unusual novel.

Library Journal

The orchard of the title is both a citrus grove in Israel and also the metaphorical fruit from some 200 years of Jewish domestic life in Jerusalem and beyond. And what a mixed bowl it is, as depicted in this first novel. Twenty-one interlinking narratives stretch from 1837 to the present, beginning with the narrator's great-great-great-grandmother Esther, whose own grandfather is chief rabbi of the British Empire....This is a new writer to watch.

Library Journal

The orchard of the title is both a citrus grove in Israel and also the metaphorical fruit from some 200 years of Jewish domestic life in Jerusalem and beyond. And what a mixed bowl it is, as depicted in this first novel. Twenty-one interlinking narratives stretch from 1837 to the present, beginning with the narrator's great-great-great-grandmother Esther, whose own grandfather is chief rabbi of the British Empire....This is a new writer to watch.

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