In the late 16th century, a band of Portuguese Jews sought refuge in Turkey under the protection of Suleiman the Magnificent, the most celebrated Sultan in the Ottoman Empire. Among those escaping persecution were noble widow Doña Antonia Nissim, her daughter Reyna, and her nephew Jose. Faced with the truth of their Jewish heritage for the first time in their lives, Reyna and Jose connect with each other and find love and comfort in Turkey. Years later, their daughter Tamar falls in love with the Sultan’s son, Murat; the two vow to spend the rest of their lives together despite the oppositions of their families and the obstacles of classism and religion that stand in their way. They remain committed to their shared determination until the tensions escalade between their families and Tamar vanishes. Mad with devastation, Murat assumes his role in the Ottoman Empire and sparks what will become known as The Sultan’s Curse, a plague that affects his every descendant. Fast-forward to present-day Turkey and Selim Osman, a wildly successful real estate magnate and the grandson of the last Osman Sultan. In the prime of his life, Selim has the world at his feet until fate deals him a cruel blow: a shocking and life-altering diagnosis. Abandoning his life in Turkey, Selim turns to a Manhattan hospital in the hope of a cure; here he meets Hannah, a spirited young painter whose father is fighting a medical battle of his own. As Selim and Hannah start to understand the depth of their connection they’ll rejoin a love once lost and finally bring two fates together after decades of dormant solitude.
A lush novel spanning generations and eras, The Debt of Tamar is ambitious and beautifully crafted by debut author Nicole Dweck. Its story is a fascinating one, spun with originality by the author in a fearless departure from the typical structure of a novel. There’s a noticeable artistry to the way Dweck uses a full cast – five generations’ worth of active characters – to tell the story of one love and one destiny. What could be expected to be a frustratingly complex tale becomes a genuinely accessible novel, one that balances names, dates, and histories all with a surprising and pleasing lightness. Dweck knows exactly how long to focus on a generation of characters before moving us on to the next, understanding very well how her reader will process all this information, all these emotions and experiences. Lingering purposefully on Tamar and Murat, the novel’s central love story is palpable, but it’s where Dweck goes next that will truly surprise and engross her reader.
There’s nothing predictable about The Debt of Tamar, which is a statement that takes on new meaning as soon as the reader finishes its final pages: often a book ends one way or another, happy or sad. I was mesmerized by the way Dweck approached Happily Ever After as something woven in the invisible power of fate, something that transcends human emotion and even the human lifespan. Her efforts awaken the reader to a mystical idea of the true eternity of love and its ability to triumph even after its lovers are gone. Beyond the enchantment of her story, Dweck proves herself a capable and truly talented writer, piecing together luminous moments of prose that will blossom under her audience’s eyes. Her writing, particularly in the contemporary portion of the novel, offers a gently poetic touch that caused me to stop and remark on the way words, though perfectly natural apart, can create something special together. I suppose that in itself is a reflection on her depiction of the legacy of Tamar and Murat: existing apart, but together in love.
Title: The Debt of Tamar
Author: Nicole Dweck
Genre: Historical fiction, romance
Publisher: Devon House Press/Nicole Dweck
Available Formats: paperback
Release date: February 4, 2013
Provided by: Nicole Dweck (c/o)
Buy the book: Amazon | Kindle
Connect with the author: Website | Twitter | Goodreads
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