The Fruit of Her Hands: The Story of Shira of Ashkenaz by Michelle Cameron
Genre: historical fiction
I was amazed and impressed by the way in which the author took her research of her 13th century ancestor, Rabbi Meir ben Baruch, and wrote an historical novel based on his life. Although she knew little about his wife, the author recreated her, Shira of Ashkenaz, as the main character in her novel.
The book details the childhood of Shira and her interest in biblical studies, created a love connection to the apostate Nicholas Donin, and gave him an additional motive for his hatred of the Jewish religion - his unsuccessful bid for Shira's hand in marriage. The book develops the character Shira as the perfect woman and mother, a "pearl" of a wife to Meir ben Baruch.
From the Author's Note:
" I don't remember the first time my mother told me I was descended from a famous rabbi who lived in Europe in the 1200s....I stumbled upon a reference to Rabbi Meir ben Baruch of Rothenbert, the Maharam....
I had never known that in 1242 an apostate Jew named Nicholas Donin, having been excommunicated by the chief rabbi of Paris, convinced the Pope and French royals to burn every copy of the Talmud in a Paris market square. My ancestor, Rabbi Meir ben Baruch, was among the witnesses.... I learned how, years later, Meir ben Baruch settled in Rothenberg, founded a Jewish seminary, and became known throughout Europe for the wisom of his responsa, letters written in response to Talmudic questions."
Those interested in the history of religion in 13th century France, Germany, and England, and in the conflict between the Jews and Christians on an official basis and in the daily life of the time, will be fascinated by the research as well as by the fictional story of Shira as wife and mother.
My thanks to the author/publisher for an advance copy of The Fruit of Her Hands and the opportunity to review it. You can visit the author's website for more information on the book and book tour at Michelle Cameron