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Library Happenings – Amazon suggestion leads to great book discovery

By Angie Georgeff

Amazon sends me emails about every other day with suggestions for books that I might like, based primarily on my own orders but also some books I ordered as gifts or for the library. I guess that’s why on occasion I receive recommendations that completely miss the mark. Last month, however, one of their suggestions hit the bullseye. It was recommended for readers who enjoyed A. S. Byatt’s “Possession” and Geraldine Brooks’s “People of the Book.” That piqued my attention.

Rachel Kadish’s “The Weight of Ink” is a weighty tome, but at 567 pages, it is only the weight of the paper that tips the scales. The words themselves flow as effortlessly as a summer breeze. We are first introduced to Helen Watt, an ailing and aloof history professor on the verge of retirement. Even though she is quite thoroughly English, her area of expertise is Jewish history.

A former student contacts her about papers that an electrician found hidden in his late 17th century home in the London suburb of Richmond. He thinks some of the writing is Hebrew. After examining one letter, Helen realizes that they have discovered a genizah, a cache of worn books and old documents that were hidden away until the owners could respectfully dispose of them by burial.

Helen recruits charming American doctoral candidate Aaron Levy to help her with the project. It appears the papers belonged to a rabbi who had been blinded by the Portuguese Inquisition. His sermons and correspondence had been written by a scribe, who initialed them with the Hebrew letter aleph. Contrary to all expectations, they soon discover that “Aleph” was a woman.

Ester Velasquez had been educated by the rabbi alongside her younger brother. After they were orphaned in Amsterdam, they accompanied their teacher to London in 1657. Isaac was to be the scribe while Ester would–of course–devote herself to women’s work. Isaac’s death changed everything, vaulting Ester into the masculine role of amanuensis. Ester flourishes in her new capacity, but the portentous year of 1666 is on the horizon, and it will bring war, plague and fire to London.

Friday Family Fun Day

Make plans now to join us at 2 p.m. on Friday, July 7, at Capitol Cinema on Main Avenue in Erwin for a brand new PG-rated movie your kids are sure to love. The $6 discounted price of admission includes popcorn and a drink. Children under the age of 12 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. There is no admission charge for children under the age of two. For the latest information, please visit our Unicoi County Public Library Kids and Teens Facebook page. You also may call the library at 743-6533, for more information.