Posts Tagged ‘The Genizah at the House of Shepher’


I used the random.org sequence generator to find winners for the three copies The Genizah at the House of Shepher.  The winners are the first three in the list (drumroll, please):

Random Sequence Generator

Here is your sequence:

  • 12
  • 6
  • 16
  • 22
  • 17
  • 36
  • 13
  • 31
  • 33
  • 29

(I deleted the list after the first 10 numbers; too much clutter!)

Timestamp: 2008-08-01 10:38:19 UTC

Which corresponds to:

  • 12 – Beth
  • 6 – indygo88
  • 16 – Christine H

Congratulations to the winners!  Please reply to my email or use the Contact Me tab at the top of this page to send me your mailing address.  Thanks for playing, everyone!

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The folks at St. Martin’s Press have offered to let me give away a few copies of The Genizah at the House of Shepher by Tamar Yellin.

This wonderful epic tale covers 150 years and four generations, culminating in a present-day resolution to a mystery that has been passed down throughout the years.   It’s a great book to read on your own, or use the Reading Group Gold discussion questions with your book group.  Read my full review here.

For a chance to win a copy of the book, leave a comment on this post telling why you’d like to read the book – what appeals to you?  history?  mystery?  the setting?  the cover design?  If you have a blog, please link back to this post for an additional entry.

Enter by July 31; winners will be selected randomly and announced on August 1.  Good luck!

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Click here to enter a giveaway for a copy of The Genizah at the House of Shepher!


  • The Genizah at the House of Shepher by Tamar Yellin
  • Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin; 1st St. Martin’s Griffin Ed edition (July 22, 2008 )
  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • ISBN-10: 0312379072
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312379070
  • The Genizah at the House of Shepher opens in the 1850s with the marriage of the narrator’s great-grandfather, and his subsequent move from Lithuania to Jerusalem.  The narrator, 40-something Shulamit Shepher, tells his story and that of the next two generations of Shepher men – her great-grandfather’s search for the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel, her grandfather’s political ideals which clash with his religious beliefs, and her father’s quest to find his true self.  She also, of course, examines her own life and her role in this family.

    This epic tale is skillfully woven into the framework of Shula’s return to the family home in Jerasalem to visit with relatives one last time before the humble abode is released to developers for a new apartment complex.  Memories of her childhood are around every corner in the neighborhood, and the more time she spends with her various aunts and uncles, the more she hears stories of generations past.  Yellin moves between present-day and the past as she carefully allows the story to unfold; the shift of setting is smooth and our understanding of each character grows as we return to visit them again and again. 

    Tamar Yellin’s skills as a writer allow a reader unskilled in biblical history to engage and enjoy this novel.  Her prose explain without condescending; a genizah is repository where worn and unusable sacred documents are stored; the genizah in this case is the attic of the small home which has housed generations of Shephers in Jerusalem.  Shula’s uncle has recently unearthed an ancient bound document from the attic, which may, or may not have been brought back by great-grandfather Shalom Shepher during his search for the Ten Lost Tribes.  The book is a Codex, possibly an ancient bible; one that may offer an alternate view of the Holy Word.  In-fighting among the relatives, curiosity from the public, and a mysterious stranger add to the secrets of the genizah. 

    With Yellin’s beautiful descriptive language, Shula describes herself poetically as “tidy Dr. Shepher who was aging into dull midlife, who lived alone and marked essays until midnight … who had no past and no secrets, who skated primly, smoothly on the surface.  Now the ice had cracked and I had fallen through, down, down to the wreck of the past … the air in the attic was warm, like underwater, and I could hardly breathe for the history it held … and the questions flooded me, filling up my lungs … Inhaling deeply I took my last leave of the surface, as with firm fingers I turned the next brittle page.”

     The genizah becomes symbolic of Shulamit’s personal storage system – burying herself in her work as a biblical scholar, wondering what might have been if her failed long-term relationship had turned in a different direction, and ignoring the truth about her family’s history.  As she works to unravel the mystery of the Codex and struggles to decide to whom it rightly belongs, she also faces her personal history head-on.

     I highly recommend The Genizah at the House of Shepher as an interesting and leisurely read.  The novel was intriguing with its use of language, history and Shula’s personal story.  It was extremely satisfying that, although Yellin solved some of the mysteries presented, other items were left up to the interpretation of the reader.

     The Genizah at the House of Shepher will be released in paperback later this month; it won the Jewish Book Council’s 2007 Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature, the Ribalow Prize and was on the short list for the Wingate Prize.  More information about author Tamar Yellin can be found at her website.  Book group discussion questions and an author interview are online at St. Martin’s Reading Group Gold.

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