For Esther Kaminsky, a young ultra-Orthodox woman in Jerusalem, there has never been any doubt that she will grow up a good Jerusalem maiden, preparing herself to be a wife and mother according to God’s dictates. But an influential teacher and a newfound passion for art threaten those plans for the future. Drawing and painting are forbidden and put not only her future in jeopardy, but also her soul. Still, she can’t help but think that her skill with pencil and brush is a gift from God. When a series of tragedies befall the Kaminsky family, Esther is sure she’s at fault for secretly disobeying the rules of her people. She throws away thoughts of art school and devotes herself to being a perfect Jerusalem maiden. Years later, married and a mother to three, a chance trip to Paris reawakens her to art, and Esther finds herself confronting the same questions of faith and passion she pushed aside as a girl.
Unsurprisingly, this is a book steeped in religion. I expected that, given that it’s about reconciling faith, tradition, and family with a modern world, but the book reminds the reader of that religion on every page, and Esther’s crisis of faith lasts the majority of the book. She takes us through many chapters of repetitive questioning before she finds acceptance. And, in the end, all her hesitant growth is negated by an unsatisfying conclusion. Although well-written, this book just wasn’t my cup of tea.