Jerusalem Maiden: A Novel

Jerusalem Maiden: A Novel - Talia Carner Esther Kaminsky is a young Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) girl growing up in Jerusalem in the final years of the Ottoman Empire. Allowed by her indulgent father to attend a secular school, she discovers that she has artistic talent, but her strict religious training defines the drawings and paintings she loves to create as graven images. So begins Talia Carner’s novel Jerusalem Maiden, and this conflict between her joy in her talent and the obligations imposed on her by her faith will haunt Esther through the rest of the book.

This is no simple coming-of-age story with definitive choices and an easy ending for all concerned. Life in the Haredi community is hard and constrictive, especially for a girl who wants something besides a life bearing sons to bring the Messiah, but it is also comforting and secure. Despite her questioning nature, Esther still must fight against the conditioning of her upbringing, as well as the superstition that makes her see any misfortune as a punishment for her wayward behavior.

Moving from Jerusalem to Jaffa and then to post-WWI Paris, Jerusalem Maiden paints a vivid picture of life in those turbulent years, the hardships and the joys, and the difficult and complex choices that this spirited young woman faces in her quest to remain true to herself.