By Sarah Larson, Contributor
Alice Hoffman’s novel “The Dovekeepers” is a terrific, inspiring novel. It is also very complex, which makes it a bit harder to read compared to the common teen novel.
“The Dovekeepers” is spilt into four parts. Each part is a story about a different woman who works in the dovecotes of the city Masada. The story is set circa 70 C.E. in Ancient Israel and begins with Yael.
A young woman with fire-red hair who has seen great tragedy, Yael’s mother died while giving birth to her. Her father, an ex-assassin, blames her for the loss of his wife and never shows her any respect or love. After Jerusalem falls, they are forced into the desert.
After wandering, Yael and her father finally reach the city of Masada, to join her brother. Masada is filled with evacuated Jews who all have experienced great misfortune. There, Yael is sent to work in the dovecotes with four women.
Yael is in a constant war with herself. She blames herself for her mother’s death, calling herself a murderer and a sinner. She struggles with her sins daily, yet she does not see her strength and courage, which is apparent to the reader.
The story continues from Revka’s, the baker’s wife, point-of-view in Part Two. She works in the dovecotes with Yael. Revka is a widow who lost her husband before she evacuated with her daughter’s family. She, like Yael, also wandered through the desert to find the city and lost her daughter before she reached it.
A group of Romans raped and beat her daughter to death while her two sons and mother watched. Revka poisoned the Romans and lives with the loss of her husband and daughter and her own sins. Her grandchildren never spoke a word after they witnessed what happened to their mother; she lives with this pain as well. Revka seeks forgiveness for her sins and forgiveness from herself.
Aziza, the third narrator, is torn. As a child, she grew up without her father, but her sister’s father instead. She was forced to act like a boy and thus grew up as a boy. Aziza’s perspective of being a young boy during this period is fascinating.
After her mother flees to Masada with Aziza and her sister, Aziza is revealed as a woman. The switch is confusing to her because she feels out of place in her own gender. Her true identity is a warrior. She goes against her mother’s warnings and falls in love with Yael’s brother, Armam. Her mother predicts that falling in love will cause Aziza’s destruction.
The Witch of Moab is the final narrator in “The Dovekeepers.” Born and raised in Alexandria, Shirah learned the ways of the alchemy from her mother. The name “Witch” follows her around wherever she goes. People cast her dirty looks, yet come to her when they feel that they have nowhere else to turn, and the Witch of Moab helps them.
Shirah is friendly with men. She has three children: Aziza, from her true love, Adir, a child from a man she never loved, and Nahara. Her beloved has been in her life since she was a young girl and stays with her until the end. Like her daughter, her mother warned her that everyone she loved was doomed.
This novel was an amazing read. I was captivated by these women and their heartbreaking stories. I gained true perspective of what it might have been like to be an Israeli woman during this time period.
If you wish to be inspired, enchanted, shocked and altered, read Alice Hoffman’s “The Dovekeepers.” I recommend this book to every woman in the world. Men probably won’t be able to identify or appreciate it as much, in my opinion. This book is to be read not just when you have a couple minutes of free time, but when you have days to devote to it and your mind is clear. This book needs to be taken in, thought over and appreciated for the great story that it is.