The bubonic plague brings added misery and death to European Jews.
Natan is the 17-year-old son of a Jewish ragman in 14th-century Strasbourg. His family ekes out a precarious living in a city rampant with anti-Semitism. When the bubonic plague races across Europe, the Jews are at even greater risk than usual, accused of poisoning wells and causing the deaths. Natan has fallen in love with Elena, the Christian daughter of his father’s business associate—a forbidden love. When he witnesses town hoodlums throwing a dead cat into a well, he is murdered. His soul, now an ibbur, enters the body of Hans, a Christian who works for Elena’s father. (An ibbur “occurs when a righteous person’s soul takes up residence in another’s body.”) Natan is now tasked with trying to save the Jews of Strasbourg. He desperately tries to enlist the help of the Ammeister, head of the city council, but to no avail. Elena tries equally hard to understand that her love inhabits the body of a boy she does not like. Wiseman tells her tragic tale alternating the voices of Natan and Elena. It is a heart-rending tale based on actual events, which saw the Jews of the city almost entirely murdered by being burned alive.
Readers will need the Kleenex for this one. (author’s note, glossary) (Historical fiction. 12-16)