All Other Nights
The title to this brilliant and thought-provoking novel comes from a question asked to the youngest participant at a Passover seder: Why is tonight different from all other nights? For Jacob Rappaport, a young Jewish soldier from New York City serving in the Union Army, the answer is provided to him by his commanding officers. Jacob is to go to New Orleans and, at the first seder of Passover, 1862, to murder his uncle, a man who is conspiring to plot the assassination of President Lincoln.
Jacob is so successful a secret agent that he is recruited again, not to murder, but to marry in order to break up a spy ring in Virginia. What Jacob encounters there tests the bounds of family ties and tradition. It also brings him face to face with what he values most in life.
The novel reads so beautifully, it virtually sings. The characters are fully fleshed out – Jacob is a gem of a creation. The plotline is tight, and one event runs seamlessly into the next. The introduction of historical figures like Judah Benjamin, Jefferson Davis’s second in command of the Confederacy and himself a Jew, is by no means a “throw away” – Benjamin becomes a focal character in the second part of the book. Horn introduces us to the workings of the slave spy network. She leads us inexorably through the self-destruction of the city of Richmond. The Author’s Note is a wonderful addition, helping us to put the events in perspective.
What is clear is how we continue, over 140 years later, to confront many of the same conflicts that confronted Jacob – conflicts over heritage, religious tradition, equal rights.
This is a must read and highly recommended.