Synopses & Reviews
A melancholy young Jewish gem merchant, Abraham, born in Venice, has lived his life behind the ghetto walls of that damp, oppressive city. He has lost a wife and the son whose difficult birth killed her. Now there is nothing left for him there.
In the autumn of 1598, Abraham chooses to seek his fortune far from the painful familiarity of Europe and travels halfway across the world to the lush and exotic Burmese kingdom of Pegu. An overpoweringly strange mélange of sodden heat, colorful customs, and odd superstitions, it is a place and a people completely alien to him. Yet in Pegu, the jewel trader is not hated or shunned for his faith. Here Abraham is a man. Here he is free.
But there is a price for his newfound freedom. Local custom demands that foreigners perform a duty Abraham finds both troubling and barbaric. While it is a responsibility many men would embrace eagerly, it mocks Abraham's moral beliefs and fills him with dread and despair...until Mya arrives to briefly share his bed.
Barely more than a girl, she awakens something within him far more profound and more pleasurable than the guilt he anticipated. And when tragedy destroys the future that was planned for her, Abraham takes Mya in, offering her his home, his protection, and, unexpectedly, his love. But great social and political upheaval threatens to violently transform the entire Peguan empire and the actions of the powerful will force fateful choices that could have devastating consequences for Abraham and Mya and their dreams for the future.
"Jewish jewel trader Abraham, a widower at 28, leaves Venice in 1598 for Pegu, a Burmese kingdom halfway around the world, where he is to settle and acquire high-quality gems for the family business. In his letters home, which comprise much of the novel, Abraham, liberated from the ghetto, delights in the freedom to walk when and where he will, but soon discovers that foreigners are expected to perform a specific service to bring luck to the marriages of young brides, one that is forbidden by Jewish law. His relationship with a young woman, Mya, expands his views, and he develops deep friendships with several other locals. As political unrest grows in the area, however, Abraham is forced to choose between his feelings for Mya and his certainty that the world does not have a place for their love. Making his fiction debut, Hantover intercuts Abraham's letters with short chapters from Mya's point of view with delicacy and grace. He evokes the lush setting and gives clear voice to Abraham's doubts, fears and passions." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"There's no great hook to suck you in. No slick plot to entertain. Which isn't to say it isn't a lovely piece of work, only that it's quiet. It's shy. You'll have to spend some time getting to know each other before the book begins to give up its secrets, its treasures." St. Petersburg Times
"[R]eaders shouldn't expect a grand romantic epic from this slim volume. But they will be swept away by Hantover's lavish descriptions of an exotic, lost Asian kingdom; the gentle love story; and the tale of one mans thoughtful journey to his hearts home." Booklist
About the Author
Jeffrey Hantover has written extensively on social issues, art, and culture for international publications, and his poetry has been published in several U.S. literary journals. He lived in Hong Kong for more than a decade and resides with his wife in New York City.