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The Wayward Moon (2012)

by Janice Weizman(Favorite Author)
4.08 of 5 Votes: 2
ISBN
1592871011 (ISBN13: 9781592871018)
languge
English
publisher
Yotzeret Publishing
review 1: In 894 AD in Buqei’a, a Jewish village in a remote corner of Galilee, the children of “a humble woman,” Rahel Yar, discover a hidden scroll after her funeral. It’s her memoir written in Syriac, the Christians’ language. While her sons initially want to burn it, they decide to read her heartbreaking life story.Rahel is born in a magnificent city, Sura, south of Baghdad, during the Golden Age of Islam. Her widower father, an erudite physician, waits for Rahel to turn seventeen before finding a groom for her. However, tragedy strikes on the day of a suitor’s visit. Enraged by the Jewish doctor’s civic appointment, a Muslim fanatic storms into the house and murders the doctor. In self-defence, Rahel knifes and kills him. Rahel flees north toward Tiflis to seek re... morefuge with a relative. Disguised as a Muslim boy, Rahel is helped by caravan travellers, but is kidnapped and made to work as a slave in a wealthy merchant’s household, where she learns firsthand about Islam. She escapes and, posing as a Christian, works in a monastery where she’s tutored in philosophy and Greek by the monks. Upon discovery of her masquerade, she flees again. Rahel encounters numerous misadventures and suffers much physical and mental abuse and a hapless love affair. Although Rahel is cash-poor, she’s rich in intellect, which carries her through her peregrination.Janice Weisman includes much intrigue in the story of Rahel’s outer journey to keep readers engrossed. We also learn from her inner journey about self-discovery and change, including insights into Judeo-Christian-Islamic relationships. Recommended.This review first appeared in the print magazine, Historical Novel Review Issue 64 (May 2013)
review 2: Rahel, a 17-year-old Jewish girl living in the ninth century in Sura, in what was then Babylonia (Bavel), is about to be happily married off to a prominent scholar. But suddenly everything changes when her father, a popular physician, becomes the enemy of a powerful antisemite Abu Said. And so begins The Wayward Moon (Yotzeret Publishing), the debut novel by Janice Weizman, a Toronto-born writer who now lives in Israel.When Said kills her father, Rahel, whose mother died in childbirth, is forced to make a long and perilous journey by herself to a distant relative in Tiflis, in northern Iraq. This journey is the setting of the novel, told primarily in three parts: Slavery, Knowledge and Freedom.The first of these three parts is the best and could have been a shorter novel in its own right.Knowing that the open roads are not safe, especially for women, Rahel dresses as a man, and leaves her beloved hometown, a major centre of Jewish learning at the time. But when she reaches Baghdad, her true gender becomes revealed when she is captured and sold as a slave to a wealthy silk merchant.Thinking it best to keep her Jewish identity hidden, she takes on a Muslim name and is sent to work in the kitchen. Although it’s not ideal, and a bit beneath her station as the daughter of a physician, she knows it’s better than the alternative – starving in the streets. It also worries her that Islamic law permits a master to lie with his slave and her master happens to have at least two randy sons.When things at the merchant’s house turn sour, Rahel decides to don her man’s outfit once more and continue on her journey.Although not without faults, Rahel is a likable enough character. She’s a strong woman at a time when women were regarded as weak.The very act of departing on this dangerous journey was a brave decision, one she was forced to make because of her circumstances.She is also very hard-headed. Time and time again, she refuses offers of safety and security in order to complete her journey. But the problem with the later part of the book – even ignoring the unlikelihood of her true gender not being discovered in a monastery full of men – is that it gets weighted down by theological and philosophical discussions.This is a shame because there is much to praise in The Wayward Moon. Lovers of historical fiction and strong female characters will enjoy the story but might be put off by the weightiness of the middle section.Weizman has a terrific feel for the time period, and her characters and descriptions (from what people wore and what they ate to what they did for pleasure) are highly illustrative. less
Reviews (see all)
o_raahman
It was one of the best books I have read in awhile. I didn't want it to end.
Angelica
Great for a book group, I think there will be a lot to discuss.
kassidy
Wonderful story. Should be made into a movie
hema
Reading this book and loving it!
selma
Loved it!!!
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