The Dovekeepers

I found my way to an abandoned garden behind the Northern Palace, a walled-in area where women came to look for garlic and herbs that had been planted long ago and had been forgotten. There were larks there, pecking at the greens, but they all fluttered up when I came upon them, my breathing hot and ragged. I took off Adir’s garments. They were nothing but a fool’s disguise. There was rosemary growing where I stood, said to be the herb of remembrance, a gate to the past. My heart hit against my chest, and my limbs shook. I wrapped myself in my scarf as I wept for who I was.

— from The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman, 2015

This is the first book I ever picked up and purchased while standing in the grocery store line. My sister-in-law told me about it when she saw it on television, but I hadn’t known the book was written by Alice Hoffman, one of my favorite contemporary authors. It’s a thick book, consisting of four stories, four women. The above quote comes from Aziza’s story, the girl whose element is iron, the warrior girl, the girl whose name changed too often during her life.

I could have picked any paragraph from any part of the book; they are all beautifully written. Heartache and bravery, blood and feathers, spells and religious devotion: they all weave together to form this story about a people chased from their homes by the Romans in 70 A.D., and gathered together in a fortress on a mountain. I won’t forget this book. It is one I will read again.

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