Thursday, August 28, 2014

"Henna House"

Nomi Eve is the author of Henna House and The Family Orchard, which was a Book-of-the-Month Club main selection and was nominated for a National Jewish Book Award.

She has an MFA in fiction writing from Brown University and has worked as a freelance book reviewer for The Village Voice and New York Newsday.

Her stories have appeared in Glimmer Train Stories, The Voice Literary Supplement, Conjunctions, and The International Quarterly.

Eve applied the Page 69 Test to Henna House and reported the following:
From page 69:
More than two years passed. I would be lying if I said that I spent those years doing anything other than praying for Asaf to come back. No one knew, of course. I kept my single-minded devotions to myself. The only ones to rebuke me were my little idols, my only true confidants, who grew tired of my doleful lamentations and urged me to stop pining for a boy who would never come back. At least that is what I imagined they said, as I offered them grain and sage and bowed my head to their altar.

Nothing remarkable happened in those years. But when I was eleven everything changed. One day my father stumbled on his way into our house, almost falling, catching himself with a surprised grunt. It was the winter of 1930. He had news to share. A letter in his hand. My mother worked at the table, stretching out jachnun dough. He explained that his youngest brother, Barhun, Barhun’s wife, Rahel, and their youngest daughter would be leaving their home in Aden and coming to live with us. My mother relinquished her tender hold on the dough and swore that Rahel Damari wouldn’t cross her threshold, let alone come to live in her house.

“He is my brother. “ My father’s voice rose and wavered at the same time; he was incredulous, angry.

“If they come, they won’t leave,” my mother yelled. “And if she comes here, I will leave you.”

My mother had threatened many things in their twenty-four years of marriage, but never this.

“And where will you go?”

“Back to Taiz.”

“You’ll go nowhere, Sulamit!” My father coughed, a great heaving rattle, then grabbed my mother by the wrist and pulled her arm toward….
How lucky I am! Page 69 was actually the first page I ever wrote of Henna House. It is perhaps the most important page of the book. My main character, Hani Damari is in the kitchen with her mother when her father bursts in with important news. Hani’s mother is kneading dough when her father waves a letter. He reads to them the news that his brother, sister-in-law and niece from the far away city of Aden are coming to live with them. Hani has never met her uncle, aunt and cousin. Her father shares the news excitedly, but her mother is furious. Hani watches in horror as her mother spits in the dough, and actually threatens to leave the family if the “other Damaris” come. Hani wonders why her mother hates the aunt so much. She wonders what the aunt could have done to deserve such wrath. She also wonders about her cousin -- who she is? what she is like? Hani is desperate for answers to these questions and is also desperate for a companion. In the days that follow, Hani longs for her sophisticated cousin from Aden to blaze into her life and sweep away her loneliness.

I began this book with the notion that Adela’s life had to change and that it would change through the arrival of her vivacious cousin, Hani. By the end of this passage, one of the central crises of the book is firmly in place. The mysterious visitors will come, bringing with them the blessings and curses that will change Hani’s life, for the better and for the worse.
Visit Nomi Eve's website and Facebook page.

My Book, The Movie: Henna House.

Writers Read: Nomi Eve.

--Marshal Zeringue