The Wayward Moon

Written by Janice Weizman
Review by Waheed Rabbani

In 894 AD in Buqei’a, a Jewish village in a remote corner of Galilee, the children of “a humble woman,” Rahel Yar, discover a hidden scroll after her funeral. It’s her memoir written in Syriac, the Christians’ language. While her sons initially want to burn it, they decide to read her heartbreaking life story.

Rahel is born in a magnificent city, Sura, south of Baghdad, during the Golden Age of Islam. Her widower father, an erudite physician, waits for Rahel to turn seventeen before finding a groom for her. However, tragedy strikes on the day of a suitor’s visit. Enraged by the Jewish doctor’s civic appointment, a Muslim fanatic storms into the house and murders the doctor. In self-defence, Rahel knifes and kills him. Rahel flees north toward Tiflis to seek refuge with a relative. Disguised as a Muslim boy, Rahel is helped by caravan travellers, but is kidnapped and made to work as a slave in a wealthy merchant’s household, where she learns firsthand about Islam. She escapes and, posing as a Christian, works in a monastery where she’s tutored in philosophy and Greek by the monks. Upon discovery of her masquerade, she flees again. Rahel encounters numerous misadventures and suffers much physical and mental abuse and a hapless love affair. Although Rahel is cash-poor, she’s rich in intellect, which carries her through her peregrination.

Janice Weisman includes much intrigue in the story of Rahel’s outer journey to keep readers engrossed. We also learn from her inner journey about self-discovery and change, including insights into Judeo-Christian-Islamic relationships. Recommended.