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Author: Esther David
ISBN/UPC (if available): 0670049093
When Esther David set out to write a novel that was loosely based on family history, she did not know that uncovering the past would reveal such a treasure trove of stories, or that the process would cut so close to her own life.
Her story begins in the nineteenth century, with Bathsheba, as she waits for her husband to return from his long absence at their home in Danda village on the Konkan coast. A woman of great strength of character who disregards convention, she steers the family through difficult times, but is shattered by the combined weight of social ostracism and a miscarriage. Her great-grandson David inherits her sense of empathy for all things living, besides possessing a remarkable talent for healing.
He acquires great respect as a doctor in Ahmedabad, but is unable to rein in his exuberant son Joshua, Esther’s father, in whom the ability to heal will be directed towards a series of creatures large and small, among them lions, panthers and crocodiles. Joshua goes on to found a zoo, and the stories of the pets they raise form a heartbreaking accompaniment to the human drama.
Given this background, Esther’s own story acquires an unusual poignancy as she struggles to find her moorings. A disastrous marriage, a search for roots that takes her to Israel, and turmoil in the city of her birth. Ahmedabad, coalesce into a desperate search for answers- and strength. Peopled by a host of memorable characters, some of them wonderfully eccentric, such as the uncle who is in thrall of his amorous crane, Book of Esther has all the sprawl and excitement of a bazaar.
It casts a fresh perspective on the Jewish experience in India even as it chronicles the fortunes of a gifted family intensely felt, of love and attachment, and the joys and sorrows that they bring with them.