The Garden of Ruth

Written by Eva Etzioni-Halevy
Review by India Edghill

In the small town of Bethlehem, Osnath, niece of the prophet Samuel, finds an old scroll purporting to be written by Ruth the Moabite, a woman who followed her mother-in-law Naomi (“wither thou goest,” etc.) from Moab to Israel, married the wealthy Boaz, and became great-grandmother to King David. Curious, Osnath tries to learn the whole story, but David’s brother Eliab blocks her research into the past. Although she is strongly attracted to Eliab, Osnath refuses to abandon her attempts to learn the truth about Ruth’s life.

Weaving Osnath’s tale with Ruth’s own account of what really happened when she came to a land strange to her creates an intriguing novel. Unfortunately, Ruth’s diary is far more compelling than Osnath’s story, so the book feels unbalanced. And there are a couple of things that are totally out-of-period: kings in the ancient Middle East did not have “castles”; if anything, they had palaces. And an “iron carriage” is whoppingly unlikely. In addition, I found the casual and apparently acceptable premarital sex rather odd for the time and place. But I enjoyed the book, if only for its portrayal of a truly human Ruth.