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SAFEKEEPING by Jessamyn Hope


by Jessamyn Hope

Pub Date: June 9th, 2015
ISBN: 978-1-941493-06-9
Publisher: Fig Tree Books

An alcoholic who travels to Israel on a mission of atonement—to return a priceless brooch to an aging kibbutznik—is one of a disparate group of survivors with intertwined futures.

Hope’s debut, a saga of lives intersecting at Kibbutz Sadot Hador in 1994, accrues its momentum slowly, like a rolling stone. The story is spearheaded by 26-year-old Adam Soccorso, who has fled here from New York, searching for a woman named Dagmar, to whom his recently deceased grandfather had long ago tried to give a family heirloom, a medieval sapphire brooch decorated with pomegranates. Adam, a recovering alcoholic with some recent sins weighing heavily on his conscience, naively believes that handing over the brooch will make things right. The kibbutz community he joins includes international volunteers like him—including ruthless Ulya, from Belarus, whose goal is a glamorous life in Manhattan; and French-Canadian Claudette, freighted with her own long burden of misery—and locals like the musically talented Israeli soldier Ofir and Ziva, an elderly firebrand whose commitment to the original socialist ideals of the kibbutz has filled and shaped her life. They all carry a measure of suffering, and after giving plenty of time to each of their stories, Hope sets about mingling their various paths toward redemption. At a larger level, she uses the brooch to connect episodes of anti-Semitism down the ages. With its multiple mininarratives and characters who lack convincing depth, the story often remains earthbound; but Hope hits her stride as Claudette begins to outgrow her past and Ziva reluctantly embraces truths she has long denied. Not all the characters are granted absolution or even a definite fate, but the brooch ends up in the right home.

Less convincing when striving for the epic, this solid novel achieves its strongest moments of emotional resonance in the presence of its older female characters.