The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman | Teen Ink

The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman

June 8, 2014
By Cbradley BRONZE, Orono, Maine
Cbradley BRONZE, Orono, Maine
2 articles 0 photos 0 comments

It begins with blood--a girl with hair the color of fire, the daughter of an invisible assassin with a heart of darkness and a woman who had left her before her own first breath. Her name is Yael, a name rarely spoken by her silent father, who blames her for her mother’s death and looks upon her with hatred, speaks of her only with words poisoned with insult and fury. When her house is seized and burned by the Romans, Yael must flee from her village with her father into the treacherous desert--a journey leads her to her long-lost brother, and three life-changing women who both comfort her and add their own gripping insight to the tragedy of Masada. In a novel oozing with vivid descriptions and heart-rattling plot changes, four women sing their painful stories, burdened with secrets--Yael, daughter of death, Revka, grandmother to the voiceless children who watched as their mother was raped and murdered, Aziza, raised as a boy and a warrior, and Shirah, the Witch of Moab with a mind, a love, and a destiny of her own. The dovekeepers stand fearless even as the bellow of the Romans reach the small fortress, and the spears of fire pour over the sides of the only home they had left.
Taking place in Judea during the first Jewish-Roman war almost 2,000 years ago, nearly 1,000 Jewish rebels took refuge in the fortress of Masada at the edge of the Judean desert. All four women find sanctuary in the fortress, drawn together by their humble work as Masada’s dovekeepers, collecting the dove’s eggs and fertilizing the fortress’s small orchards with the bird’s leavings. Their work is dirty and difficult, but even amid the filth and the silence the women grow close, their stories slowly intertwining into one that is unbreakably bound. In their lives, Hoffman creates a world in which women have little influence, but allows the reader to recognize how much these women truly changed the world in which they were claimed powerless. Even in such a world, shattered by screams, spattered with blood, trembling with silent fear, Hoffman lets the women notice the most beautiful things in such harshness--the hope that remains during certain and utter hopelessness, the life the escapes through the sliver between the closing doors of death, the wings that soar even when the sky is strangled by flames.
Hoffman’s descriptions are like music to the ears, color to the blinded, giving and taking in a harmonious balance of delicious words that string together in a necklace of events, flowing seamlessly into a masterpiece of shimmering literacy and breathtaking suspense. Deeply moving, The Dovekeepers satisfies any desire of those who admire the art of creative fiction, with a spice of history to give the novel a taste of the ancient, mysterious past that all should crave.

Similar Articles


This article has 0 comments.