Henna House : A Novel, Paperback

Henna House : A Novel Paperback

4 out of 5 (1 rating)


This vivid saga begins in Yemen in 1920. Adela Damari's parents' health is failing as they desperately seek a future husband for their young daughter, who is in danger of becoming adopted by the local Muslim community if she is orphaned.

With no likely marriage prospects, Adela's situation looks dire-until she meets two cousins from faraway cities: a boy with whom she shares her most treasured secret, and a girl who introduces her to the powerful rituals of henna.

Ultimately, Adela's life journey brings her old and new loves, her true calling, and a new life as she is transported to Israel as part of Operation On Wings of Eagles.

Rich, evocative, and enthralling, Henna House is an intimate family portrait interwoven with the traditions of the Yemenite Jews and the history of the Holocaust and Israel.

This sensuous tale of love, loss, betrayal, forgiveness-and the dyes that adorn the skin and pierce the heart-will captivate readers until the very last page.




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Henna House is the story of a Yemeni Jewish family written in the form of a memoir by the family's youngest daughter Adela. We meet her 1923, where five-year-old Adela is the ninth child and only daughter. She lives in fear of confiscation under the Muslim “Orphan’s Decree” should her sick father die prematurely. Through her narration, Adela is able to give the reader a unique look into a culture full of tradition, mysticism and history. When she meets her cousin Hani she is drawn into the seductive and ritualistic art of henna. All the primary characters here are female and, although deferential to the men, these are forceful women living in difficult times. Their sacred rituals bind them in their tasks of marriage, child-rearing and housekeeping. But a sense of fear and impending catastrophe infuses the story as increasingly antisemitic laws passed by Yemen's Imam cast a pall over Adela's life. Her father grows sickly, and her mother desperately searches for a boy suitable for Adela's betrothal in order to save her from being adopted and converted by a Muslim family.<br/><br/>I really enjoyed Henna House. The historical aspects of the story, the intriguing characters, and the cultural traditions were fascinating. The story was beautifully written and I especially loved the way female relationships were portrayed, and the religious and Jewish culture references. I knew very little about the Yemen Jews and what occurred in the 1920s. Reading this book was definitely an eye-opener for me. I was unaware that the Yemeni Jews had henna as part of their traditions, and I found the parts of this novel featuring the henna drawing to be absolutely fascinating. I've never read a book by this author but I'll definitely keep an eye out for another one in the future. <br/><br/>

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