The Ninth Day, by Ruth Tenzer Feldman, for Timeslip Tuesday

The Ninth Day, by Ruth Tenzer Feldman (Ooligan Press, YA, 2015), is one of three linked time travel books, the others being Blue Thread and Seven Stitches.  I liked this one best of the three.

All three books involve a mysterious woman, Serakh, born thousands of years ago, who can travel through time.  In each book she appears to a young Jewish women of her family, in various eras, to enlist their help traveling back in time to help other young women in need.  In The Ninth Day, the heroine is a girl named Hope who has struggled with a severe stutter all her life.  Only when she sings is her voice clear.  The place is Berkeley, California, the time is the 1960s, just as the Free Speech Movement is gaining ground,....and a few weeks before the book begins, Hope went on an accidental acid trip that left her with a mutilated face and flashbacks.

And then Serakh appears, and takes Hope on a journey back to 11th century Paris, where another young Jewish woman fears for her baby's life.  Her husband, shattered by the slaughter of the Jewish community of Mainz, and experiencing hallucinations, vowed to sacrifice his first born son to God.  Hope and Serakh have just nine days to persuade him to change his mind....and one tool they might use, if they choose, is LSD.  Despite the horrible consequences of Hope's own experience being unwittingly fed it, it might be a way to change the father's mind and save the baby...an interesting moral issue.

It's a very magical sort of time travel, with Serakh's gifts something over all difficulties of language, though even Serakh can't smooth over all the cultural tensions that happen when 20th century girls visit the 11th century.  The result is more a glimpse of the past, with a bit of a history lesson, rather than a full immersive experience--it's the particular people who matter, not the experience of time travel itself.

I think this is the most successfully of Tenzer's books.  Her story telling in all three is excellent, but this book, more than the other two, links the stories of present and past thematically and practically.  Hope's story in the 1960s could still have stood alone just fine, but at least here the time travel added to that story and deepened it rather than being something of a distraction.

The only thing I actively disliked about the book were the characters of Hope's brother and sister, who were too awful to be believable.  They felt exaggerated for effect rather than just convincingly unpleasant.  On the other hand, Hope's relationship with her dying grandfather is beautifully poignant, and her struggle to overcome the difficulty of her stutter and find her voice (she is lovely singer, and this plays into the plot) was very well done.  As an added bonus, I learned things about the Free Speech movement and 11th century European history,  which I appreciate.

review copy received from the publisher

1 comment:

  1. Thanks or this post. I have had The Blue Thread in my TBR pile for a very long time. This sounds like an author I would like to read.


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