Thursday, April 16, 2015
Random characters brought together through time and place, their lives woven together despite their vast differences, as each of them searches for meaning amidst the impermanence of life. This is the center thread that beautifully ties Jessamyn Hope's novel, Safekeeping, together.
Hope does a wonderful job of character development. I came to truly care for the people I encountered throughout the novel. I desperately wanted Adam to succeed in his quest to find Dagmar and give her the brooch. I hoped Claudette would find wholeness (or at least normalcy!). I saw the chink in Ziva's self-defense. I sensed the desperation in Ulya's need for a new life. It was quite the journey to walk through their highs and lows alongside them!
Having heard of the kibbutz, though not knowing a lot about the history of the movement, I thought that setting the novel there in the 1990's (for the most part) was brilliant. The flashbacks that Ziva, one of the founding members of the kibbutz, has that fill in some of the history of the Zionist movement from the 1940's and the efforts to form Israel in the decades that followed provide great context. Extending the boundaries of the setting's time all the way back to the 1300's as well as to the current day were the icing on the cake. (Although it is still chilling to be reminded of the brutal treatment of genocide, no matter the century in which it takes place.)
I also enjoyed that this novel had various components to it, such as mystery, drama, character study, etc. This lends an added depth to the novel which drew me in immediately. (Again, the tension of the setting--the Middle East with the Israeli/Arab conflicts added to this as well.) There was also a bit of forlorn melancholy lurking throughout as some characters realized that their way of life was coming to an end. For some, it was a loss. For others, it was a new beginning. And that is how life is: full of both.
If you enjoy novels with rich characters and interesting settings, a bit of mystery, historical connections, and thinking about the meaning of life, this is a novel you'll not want to miss. Book clubs will find a plethora of topics to dive into discussion over!
Thank you to Fig Tree Books LLC for the ARC I received in exchange for this review!
From the Publisher . . .
Jessamyn Hope’s Safekeeping is a profound and moving novel about love, the inevitability of loss, and the courage it takes to keep starting over.
It’s 1994 and Adam, a drug addict from New York City, arrives at a kibbutz in Israel with a medieval sapphire brooch. To make up for a past crime, he needs to get the priceless heirloom to a woman his grandfather loved when he was a Holocaust refugee on the kibbutz fifty years earlier.
There Adam joins other troubled people trying to turn their lives around: Ulya, the ambitious and beautiful Soviet émigré; Farid, the lovelorn Palestinian farmhand; Claudette, the French Canadian Catholic with OCD; Ofir, the Israeli teenager wounded in a bus bombing; and Ziva, the old Zionist Socialist firebrand who founded the kibbutz. By the end of that summer, through their charged relationships with one another, they each get their last chance at redemption.
In the middle of this web glows the magnificent sapphire brooch with its perilous history spanning three continents and seven centuries. With insight and beauty, Safekeeping tackles that most human of questions: how can we expect to find meaning and happiness when we know that nothing lasts?
About the Author . . .
Jessamyn Hope grew up in Montreal and lived in Israel before moving to New York City. Her debut novel SAFKEEPING comes out June 2015. Her fiction and memoirs have appeared in Ploughshares, Five Points, Colorado Review, Descant, and PRISM international, among other literary magazines. She was the Susannah McCorkle Scholar in Fiction at the 2012 Sewanee Writers' Conference and has an M.F.A. in creative writing from Sarah Lawrence College. Learn more at jessamynhope.com.