Review: Henna House by Nomi Eve


About Henna House

Nomi Eve’s vivid saga begins in Yemen in 1920, when Adela Damari’s parents desperately seek a future husband for their young daughter. After passage of the Orphan’s Decree, any unbetrothed Jewish child left orphaned will be instantly adopted by the local Muslim community. With her parents’ health failing, and no spousal prospects in sight, Adela’s situation looks dire until her uncle arrives from a faraway city, bringing with him a cousin and aunt who introduce Adela to the powerful rituals of henna tattooing. Suddenly, Adela’s eyes are opened to the world, and she begins to understand what it means to love another and one’s heritage. She is imperiled, however, when her parents die and a prolonged drought threatens their long-established way of life. She and her extended family flee to the city of Aden where Adela encounters old loves, discovers her true calling, and is ultimately betrayed by the people and customs she once held dear.

Henna House is an intimate family portrait and a panorama of history. From the traditions of the Yemenite Jews, to the far-ranging devastation of the Holocaust, to the birth of the State of Israel, Eve offers an unforgettable coming-of-age story and a textured chronicle of a fascinating period in the twentieth century.

My Review

Eve penned a narrative offering a powerful event in history known to few – Operation Magic Carpet, officially called Operation On Wings of Eagles along with information on Yemenite Jews and the tension between Jews and Muslims in Yemen between 1920-1940’s. From the prologue you know the story will possess its share of trials and tribulations with the ending dishing out profound heartbreak. The element of suspense exists throughout until the cover is closed. An affecting and memorable story. I didn’t want this story to end, I was captivated by Adela the moment she was introduced – her joys and sorrow became mine. She will never stray far from my thoughts and heart.

Wasn’t a fan of the prepubescent sex scene. It was uncomfortable and had no impact on the story, its absence would not have smeared the plot whatsoever, I would have preferred it omitted. Also the last part of the narrative felt completely rushed and yet this was where the historical events made the story but felt quickened and glossed over. I only wish the pace and attention was carried until the end to showcase Eve’s jewel.

Eve’s writing and vision deserves to be recognized. An incredibly arresting story of relationships, love, loss, betrayal and forgiveness. Absolutely incandescent. One of the best books I have utterly enjoyed in a long time.

About Nomi Eve32432

Nomi Eve is the author of Henna House and The Family Orchard, which was a Book-of-the-Month Club main selection and was nominated for a National Jewish Book Award.

She has an MFA in fiction writing from Brown University and has worked as a freelance book reviewer for The Village Voice and New York Newsday.

Her stories and essays have appeared in The New York Times, Glimmer Train Stories, The Voice Literary Supplement, Conjunctions, and The International Quarterly. She teaches fiction writing at Drexel University and lives in Philadelphia with her family.

Published August 12th 2014 by Scribner


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