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Henna House

Henna House

A Novel

  • reading group guide
An evocative and stirring novel about a young woman living in the fascinating and rarely portrayed community of Yemenite Jews of the mid-twentieth century, from the acclaimed author of The Family Orchard.

In the tradition of Anita Diamant's The Red Tent, Henna House is the enthralling story of a woman, her family, their community, and the rituals that bind them.

Nomi Eve’s vivid saga begins in Yemen in 1920, when Adela Damari’s parents desperately seek a future husband for their young daughter. After passage of the Orphan’s Decree, any unbetrothed Jewish child left orphaned will be instantly adopted by the local Muslim community. With her parents’ health failing, and no spousal prospects in sight, Adela’s situation looks dire until her uncle arrives from a faraway city, bringing with him a cousin and aunt who introduce Adela to the powerful rituals of henna tattooing. Suddenly, Adela’s eyes are opened to the world, and she begins to understand what it means to love another and one’s heritage. She is imperiled, however, when her parents die and a prolonged drought threatens their long-established way of life. She and her extended family flee to the city of Aden where Adela encounters old loves, discovers her true calling, and is ultimately betrayed by the people and customs she once held dear.

Henna House is an intimate family portrait and a panorama of history. From the traditions of the Yemenite Jews, to the far-ranging devastation of the Holocaust, to the birth of the State of Israel, Eve offers an unforgettable coming-of-age story and a textured chronicle of a fascinating period in the twentieth century.

Henna House is a rich, spirited, and sensuous tale of love, loss, betrayal, forgiveness, and the dyes that adorn the skin and pierce the heart.
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  • Scribner | 
  • 320 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781476740270 | 
  • August 2014
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Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for Henna House includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


Introduction

Adela Damari’s parents desperately seek a husband for their young daughter to protect her from the Orphans’ Decree, which mandates that any unbetrothed Jewish orphan be adopted by a Muslim family. With her father’s health failing and no marriage prospects in sight, Adela’s situation looks dire until two cousins enter her life: Asaf, to whom she quickly becomes promised, and Hani, who introduces Adela to the mysterious and powerful ritual of henna. Suddenly, Adela’s eyes are opened to the world: she begins to understand what it means to love. But when her parents die and a drought threatens their city, Adela and her extended family flee to Aden, where Adela falls in love, discovers her true calling, and is ultimately betrayed by the people and traditions closest to her.

Topics & Questions for Discussion

1. An epigraph from the Song of Songs opens the book. Read the entire passage in context (http://biblehub.com/niv/songs/1.htm). How is it an appropriate opening to the novel?

2. The characters in this st see more

About the Author

Nomi Eve
Photograph by Patrick Snook

Nomi Eve

Nomi Eve is the author of 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. She is currently a lecturer in the creative writing program at Bryn Mawr College and lives in Philadelphia with her family.

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