ANSLEY STEPHENSON’S REVIEW (GoodReads, 2015)
Secret Prayers, An Ode to Le’a the Unloved is so engaging that I read it in only a couple of sittings. Tannaim’s writing style took me some time to warm up to, as it is so very different (but beautifully colorful!). Once I did, the writing was incredibly engaging – more like poetry than a novel. She actually does include poem-esque excerpts throughout the novel, which enhance the themes and help the reader connect to the characters’ emotions and dilemmas.
The novel is especially interesting if you already know the story of Le’a and Rahel in the book of Genesis. Tannaim takes the information that can be found there and fills in the blanks, creatively adding dimension to the characters and their plights. I was already familiar with the story, so I knew what was coming, but it was eye-opening to see the story from a 1st person point of view (the character’s) instead of a third party.
I could identify with Le’a, but I could also identify with the novel’s themes as a whole. The different sections open up with quotes and a drawing of a woman conceptualized as a plant – which as strange as it sounds, complements the novel. The first anonymous quote has stayed with me: “Forgiveness is the fragrance the violet sheds on the heel that crushed it.” Profound, beautiful, and applicable not only to the characters’ lives, but my own life as well.
Forgiveness, sisterhood, and the desire for love are the themes that drew me in and had me weeping by the end of the story – from the beauty of the writing, the lessons the characters learned, and the similarities to my own life.
Secret Prayers, An Ode to Le’a the Unloved, is a beautiful take on a well-known tale, written by a talented woman.