Henna House, by Nomi Eve, is a captivating coming of age story, centering on the life of a young Jewish girl named Adela, born and raised in Yemen. The reader joins Adela’s life in 1920, a time when the Jewish children are under threat of confiscation due to the Orphan’s Decree; Adela is eight years old, her father is very ill and her parents are struggling to arrange a marriage in order to save Adela from being taken away after her father’s death. Through the interweaving of historical knowledge and creative storytelling, Nomi Eve takes the reader on an unfathomable journey through the trials of Yemenite Jews, by means of Adela’s life story; beginning in 1920, taking us to the other side of World War II, and ultimately concluding with Adela’s older adulthood.
What grabbed my attention from the start, was the remarkable uniqueness of a culture that I previously had no familiarity with. To be honest, what really attracted me to the story, was the beautiful Henna designs on the cover of the book. Pleasantly surprising, is how the author skillfully uses language to paint a story that morphs before your eyes, much as a henna artist does with dye. This skillful use of language pulls the reader into the story to such an extent that you feel you are right beside Adela; running, screaming, crying with her.
When the story finally concluded, it was as if I had lived a complete and entirely different life. Coming of age with Adela, by means of Nomi Eve’s wonderful storytelling, the world I was experiencing, was so foreign to my own reality, yet the watershed moments, the fears & insecurities, the hope & despair, these were all too familiar. Some books are like dessert, delicious and easy to gobble up. Other books are like dinner, requiring time to chew through the meat and potatoes. Henna House is a three-course meal, and it is well worth taking the time to chew through the meat of it and enjoy the flavorful dessert that will stay with you long after the pages end.