The Fruit of Her Hands: The Story of Shira of Ashkenaz (Paperback)
Based on the life of the author’s thirteenth-century ancestor, Meir ben Baruch of Rothenberg, a renowed Jewish scholar of medieval Europe, this is the richly dramatic fictional story of Rabbi Meir’s wife, Shira, a devout but rebellious woman who preserves her religious traditions as she and her family witness the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe.
Raised by her widowed rabbi father and a Christian nursemaid in Normandy, Shira is a free-spirited, inquisitive girl whose love of learning shocks the community. When Shira’s father is arrested by the local baron intent on enforcing the Catholic Church’s strictures against heresy, Shira fights for his release and encounters two men who will influence her life profoundly—an inspiring Catholic priest and Meir ben Baruch, a brilliant scholar. In Meir, Shira finds her soulmate.
Married to Meir in Paris, Shira blossoms as a wife and mother, savoring the intellectual and social challenges that come with being the wife of a prominent scholar. After witnessing the burning of every copy of the Talmud in Paris, Shira and her family seek refuge in Germany. Yet even there they experience bloody pogroms and intensifying anti-Semitism. With no safe place for Jews in Europe, they set out for Israel only to see Meir captured and imprisoned by Rudolph I of Hapsburg. As Shira weathers heartbreak and works to find a middle ground between two warring religions, she shows her children and grandchildren how to embrace the joys of life, both secular and religious.
Vividly bringing to life a period rarely covered in historical fiction, this multi-generational novel will appeal to readers who enjoy Maggie Anton’s Rashi’s Daughters, Brenda Rickman Vantrease’s The Illuminator, and Geraldine Brooks’s People of the Book.
About the Author
Michelle Cameron lived in Israel for fourteen years and served in the Israeli army. She works for an interactive media company and lives in Chatham, NJ with her husband and two sons.
"Michelle Cameron deftly gives dramatic voice to the Jewish women of the Middle Ages. The Fruit of Her Hands is suspenseful, soulful, and plain wonderful. It takes us to the heights of scholarship and imagination."
-- Ruchama King, author of Seven Blessings
"Michelle Cameron delves into one of the darkest eras of the Jewish past and brings forth a deeply compassionate and thoroughly gripping story of a woman whose fate is inextricably bound up with that of her people. Meticulously researched yet richly imaginative, it will keep you spellbound until the last, enthralling page."
-- Eva Etzioni-Halevy, author of The Triumph of Deborah
"The Fruit of Her Hands lets the reader experience first-hand the tragic end of hundreds of years of Jewish presence in medieval France through the voice of its passionate and learned heroine. This novel shows us that women, too, can bear witness to history."
-- Maggie Anton, author of Rashi's Daughters
"With a powerful immediacy, Cameron's meticulously researched historical is told by Shira, an anomalous 13th-century woman raised (and educated) like a son by her widowed father...Readers will drink in the historical detail."
-- Publishers Weekly
"Cameron's clean, clear prose clings to the reader's memory long after it's been read, as does her heroine. This novel will appeal to everyone who craves an accurate, arresting novel."
-- Romantic Times
"Readers who appreciated Maggie Anton's Rashi's Daughters trilogy will be entertained."
-- Library Journal
"A beautifully written saga, [...] With strong main characters, a myriad of important secondary players, The Fruit of Her Hands is a gripping, fascinating, and informative narrative of a tragic, yet important historical period."
-- Romance Reviews Today
"The Fruit of Her Hands is equally rich as history and fiction. ...[A] book so rich with wonderful characters, vivid settings, and an absolutely lush and wonderful depiction of the strengths of the medieval Jewish home and community. Cameron is an author I certainly hope to hear more from. This is a first-rate choice for Jewish book clubs."
-- San Diego Jewish World