Synopses & Reviews
Estrella is a Marrano: During the time of the Spanish Inquisition, she is one of a community of Spanish Jews living double lives as Catholics. And she is living in a house of secrets, raised by a family who practices underground the ancient and mysterious way of wisdom known as kabbalah. When Estrella discovers her family's true identity--and her family's secrets are made public--she confronts a world she's never imagined, where new love burns and where friendship ends in flame and ash, where trust is all but vanquished and betrayal has tragic and bitter consequences.
Infused with the rich context of history and faith, in her most profoundly moving work to date, Alice Hoffman's first historical novel is a transcendent journey of discovery and loss, rebirth and remembrance.
"As she did in The Foretelling, Hoffman offers another fascinating glimpse of a past civilization with reverberations for both past and present in this moving novel set during the Spanish Inquisition. The year is 1500 and, in the village of Encaleflora where 16-year-old narrator Estrella lives, Christian soldiers, 'driven by bloodlust and evil,' crusade against all forms of heresy. First, they burn books; next, they rob Jewish and Muslim families of their possessions, then torture or kill them. Readers familiar with Jewish traditions may guess what Estrella does not yet know about her family: that they are conversos, 'new Christians,' a community practicing the Jewish faith in secret. With expert pacing and lyrical prose, Hoffman lays out the clues that lead Estrella to self-discovery while also educating readers about the nuances of the times. Early signs point to the heroine's best friend Catalina's eventual betrayal of her (she invites Estrella over for a dinner of sausage, for instance), because she is jealous of the attentions Estrella receives from Catalina's cousin and fiancé, Andres. During her darkest hours, after her grandfather, mother and brother are brutally murdered, Estrella still refuses to compromise her values or her devotion to Andres, who returns her love despite the dangers. Even secondary and tertiary characters emerge fully formed, while Estrella's spare, eloquent narrative evokes her sorrow and her determination to survive and never to forget the atrocities she has witnessed. 'Even when I was an old woman...older than the oldest raven in the sky, I'd remember everything I'd ever known and seen,' she vows as she prepares an escape to Amsterdam. Ages 12-up." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Acclaimed adult writer Hoffman...makes the history immediate in Estrella's spare, intense first-person narrative..." Booklist
"[M]oving narrative, richly drawn characters, vivid historical context, and poetic language....Hoffman's story is both difficult and essential reading." Children's Literature
"Hoffman's signature lyricism is much in evidence but her prose is not as rich in detail as in her other books. The result is a story that reads like a black fairy tale." Myrna Marler, KLIATT
"More poet than historian, Hoffman focuses less on period detail than on her protagonist's inner life and voice; her tale therefore has a timeless quality..." Kirkus Reviews
"Alice Hoffman's words are always magical and spellbinding never more so than in this gripping novel of centuries-old cruelty replayed in each generation....Incantation is a reminder that such stories must be told again and again." Lois Lowry
From a New York Times
bestselling author comes a journey of loss and rebirth with a startling premise inspired by historical fact. Estrella is a Marrano: one of the Spanish Jews living double lives when those who refused conversion risked everything.
Estrella's discovery that her family secretly practices the ancient way of wisdom known as kabbalah leads her to her true self and true love but also to a devastating confrontation with unimaginable evil, unleashed by the betrayal of a friend. With themes of faith, friendship, and persecution, Alice Hoffman's tragic and beautiful novel resonates profoundly in our times.
About the Author
Alice Hoffman was born in New York City on March 16, 1952 and grew up on Long Island. After graduating from high school in 1969, she attended Adelphi University, from which she received a BA, and then was a Mirrellees Fellowship at the Stanford University Creative Writing Center, which she attended in 1973 and 74, receiving an MA in creative writing.
Hoffman's work has been published in more than twenty translations and more than one hundred foreign editions. Her novels have received mention as notable books of the year by the New York Times, Entertainment Weekly, the Los Angeles Times, Library Journal, and People magazine. Ms. Hoffman has also worked as a screenwriter for many years and is the author of the original screenplay Independence Day, a film starring Kathleen Quinlan and Diane Weist. Hoffman's short fiction and non-fiction have appeared in the New York Times, the Boston Globe Magazine, Kenyon Review, Boulevard, Redbook, Architectural Digest, Gourmet, Premier, Self, Southwestern Review and many other magazines.