THE GARDEN OF RUTH by Eva Etzioni-Halevy
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Etzioni-Halevy (Emeritus, Political Sociology/Bar-Ilan Univ., Israel; The Song of Hannah, 2005) offers a beautifully sensitive, lustily feminist romance inspired by the Book of Ruth.

The author frames her story of Ruth the Moabite several generations after the flame-haired widow married Boaz and lived with him in Bethlehem, embracing his Jewish religion. As the story opens, 15-year-old maiden Osnath, from Ramah, has come to spend time with her relatives, the clan of Jesse, in Bethlehem, at the prodding of her wise Uncle Samuel, who believes she can uncover the true story of great-grandmother Ruth. Able to read, Osnath tries to penetrate the scroll room guarded by Jesse's eldest son, Eliab, but he seduces her—compliant Osnath isn't sure she wants to fend him off. Her interest in reading Ruth's story only increases, however, when Osnath gleans from the scrolls that Ruth had an unnamed lover before she remarried Boaz—yet everyone insists on blocking her queries. Moreover, Osnath herself is not-so-secretly sleeping with Eliab's honey-tongued youngest brother, David, the shepherd who is soon anointed successor to King Saul and bequeathed in marriage to a princess, thus scorning poor Osnath. In tedious circuitry, Osnath ends up marrying her former nemesis, Eliab, perhaps only to get her hands at last on Ruth's story—although the sex is definitely hot, too. Thus Part Two shifts to Ruth's perspective as she recounts her famous tale of migration with her mother-in-law back to Naomi's home in Bethlehem, then meets the stolid provider Boaz—though first there is the delicate matter of a secret lover. The stories of Osnath and Ruth fulfilling their sexual identity nicely parallel each other.

A brazen rendering of the biblical material breathes fire into a ripping good saga.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 2007
ISBN: 0-452-28673-5
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Plume
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 2006