And The Fiercest Comeback of the Year Award goes to…

dovekeep

Ooooops, she did it again!

Remember my fond review of Alice Hoffman’s Local Girls where I first expressed how impressed and mesmerized I am with the way she writes? Remember how high my expectations were for ‘Here on Earth’ and how frustrated and disappointed I was after having read it? Remember when I stated in one of my Tag Thursdays post that I have a love-hate relationship of sorts with her? Well, this book settles the score then because she freaking won me over completely for the second time with ‘The Dovekeepers’—her most recent book and regarded by readers and critics alike as her best work yet. And oh, how absolutely right they are. It somehow makes you wonder how she’ll ever outdo herself with this one because it’s just that goooood.

To date, Hoffman has already published 46 books and you can say that my opinion about her writing may not count so much (having only read three of her works so far), but I’ve been reading for my entire life and hot damn, this book!—It’s asdfghjkl asdfg perfection.

As a reader, I have a special admiration reserved for authors who know how to redeem themselves from any misconceptions hurled against them by naysayers. Alice Hoffman did just that when she came up with this book. Never have I been so delighted to be proven wrong. It’s like an in-your-face open letter to everyone who has ever doubted her writing because I’m telling you, this gorgeous stunner of a novel will make you a believer that no one writes about women like Hoffman does and that when it comes to magical realism, at her very best—She’s queen.

I really wish I can tell you more about how wonderful this book is, but you know too well by now that it’s my handicap as a book blogger–when I love a book too much I tend to spout nothing but gibberish. So I’m telling you about how much this book meant to me instead. In three portraits.(Disclaimer: Alarmingly massive amount of cheesy metaphors ahead.)

I.
“Here is the riddle of love: Everything it gives to you, it takes away.”

A portrait of women from the beginning of time. Let’s get real: when we think of wars and colonial siege, our minds automatically picture gruesome sword-wielding, shedding of blood, and—of course—men warriors. How long does it usually take us to remember that women also existed in these pivotal moments of history? Do we ever pause to think about the hardships they might have also suffered while the men are away and how they found among themselves to hold each other up and their fortresses safe altogether? In many ways, this book has been an eye-opener because I, for one, am guilty. Maybe it’s because I live in such a different time than theirs, or I just really never identified myself in the traditions of the past. But ah, this book. At every page, it seems to be asking me: So you think you’ve seen the worst this world has to give? And so it scorns, as much as it smiles. After every somewhat-sneer, it will ultimately whisper: We’ve been through it all and you have to believe that this, too, shall pass.

This is a tribute to the unsung bravery of women at a time of tragedy and sufferings, in a period of history unbeknownst to most of us, making it all the more sublime and wonderfully strange. Let me just say that the power of this book is in the beauty of its characters. I don’t know how Hoffman does it, but she unfailingly creates women characters that are very much alive on the page: compelling in their heartbreaks, extraordinary in their sophistication and moments of triumph. The Dovekeepers features four women: the Assassin’s Daughter (Yael), the Baker’s Wife (Revka), the Warrior’s Beloved (Aziza) and the Witch of Moab (Shirah). They’re all so brilliantly written that picking a favorite is just next to impossible. Such a beautiful dilemma to be enamored by everyone and everything in a story—I loved them, envied them, despised them, wanted to be like them, wept for them. It’s not a mere reading experience—it’s a freaking relationship.

II.

“Even as a small child, I understood that woman had secrets, and that some of these were only to be told to daughters. In this way we were bound together for eternity.”

A portrait of Alice Hoffman’s growth as an author. I know Alice Hoffman has turned 61 last month and I, on the other hand, will turn 23 later this year, but there’s this attachment she establishes so seamlessly with her readers that I can attest to, despite the 39 years of gap between us. I know it’s a crazy opinion but I just feel so proud of her achievement with this book and how much she’s grown in her writing. Age is but a bridge, and she helps me see through her eyes how the world looks like from there—horrifying and beautiful and magical. It’s like each of her book is an intimate loveletter from an imaginary friend who knew everything about me. I maybe reading too closely between the lines but with The Dovekeepers, it’s as if she’s writing: Dear Friend, I am entrusting you this secret. Because that’s what she did. This is a gift from her imagination, so rich in detail, so vividly painted in lyrical, poetic narrative; a piece from her incredible imagination that she’s so generous to share with everyone who will read her story. And I wish nothing more than to say Thank You, for giving us a voice that not only speaks in silence but shouts above the noise and even in sadness, sings.

III.

“Being human means losing everything we love best in the world,” she murmured as she released me.

“But would you ask to be anything else?”

A portrait of myself as a reader. Enumerating all the emotions I’ve felt throughout this book will take me one whole day to write and probably a week for you to read, but I guess what matters most is the fact that I felt I also grew up so much while reading this book. It’s not every day that I come across a book that makes me feel this way, and though, I might be mistaken, I am still nothing but grateful for this feeling and, well, for all the feels. I loved The Dovekeepers, it’s as simple as that, and it’s no question that it will join my all-time favorite reads. The only thing better than a book I love is a book that also loved me back, and I felt that when this great story ended. It cradled me into its arms and I was holding onto it, never wanting to let go.

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