The Light of the Midnight Stars
by Rena Rossner
Redhood Books/Orbit, $28.00, 385pp
Published: April 2021
Once there was a Rabbi and his wife who had three daughters. Each of them inherited their powers from their lineage; one could make anything grow, another could use fire and heal people and the youngest could read the stars. They were proud of their abilities and the family used their powers to help others; but, as is the history of the Jewish people, safety is always a breath away of being taken from them. The middle daughter wanted to marry a good Jewish boy but chafed at having to wait for her older sister to marry. Finally, the oldest met the love of her life but he was goy. Her father would not bless the marriage unless the boy converted. Two years later, he returned a Jew and both sisters rejoiced. Unfortunately, as the boy was the scion of a rich and powerful family who did not appreciate their favored son being corrupted by the nasty Jews, he was murdered as were many of the Jewish community, in retaliation. The Rabbi and his family escaped but the middle sister also lost her love. The family traveled far to escape the taint of their heritage and adopted Christian names in the next town to which they came. Eventually both sisters loved again but had to deal with the bitter betrayal of their faith. One found love, one founded a dynasty and one loved a star. None found true happiness.
This story borrows from many histories, myths and stories of the Jewish people and the peoples of Eastern Europe. A student of such histories and stories will find much to appreciate. It is a very romantic story and wavers between reading as a folk tale and then as a fantasy. The three sisters were the only main characters; all others, including their parents, husbands and lovers were very one-dimensional. The worldbuilding was almost non-existent. The plot was simple and intended, I think, to promote a feeling that folk tales can be a contemporary story, it's all in how you perceive it. The best part of it for this reader, was the immersion into Jewish culture and attitudes. It was especially poignant when the family felt forced to deny their faith. ~~ Catherine Book