Henna House: A Novel (Hardcover)

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    Adela lives in Yemen in the 1920s.   Under constant threat of her mother's abuse and her father's imminent death, she tries to make no ripples in her family. She must marry before her father dies, or she will be taken from her home and given to the local Muslim community for adoption.  Unfortunately, a string of deaths and bad luck follow Adela, making her undesirable for marriage to the families in her village.  Adela believes her life and luck have taken a sweeter turn when her uncle and cousin visit. Her mother quickly convinces her uncle to engage her to her cousin, and although they are young, the two cousins do fall in love.  Fatefully, her luck turns sour once again, and her cousin leaves just as she has to face her sickly father's death.  The family flees to the city of Aden, just as Adela's eyes are opened to the world of henna by the women of her extended family.  She finally feels connected to her past through these henna rituals and traditions, but soon her her past and present combine, threatening the loyalty and trust of those she loves.  Historical fiction for lovers of epic reads like The Red Tent and/or The Poinsonwood Bible.

— Wren

Henna House is a rich, beautiful account of young Adela Damari, a Yemenite Jew growing up in the 1920s and 1930s. Her story begins at five when, in the wake of her father's worsening illness and to avoid being confiscated under the Orphans Decree, her parents must quickly find her a husband. Adela is plagued by misfortune with potential husbands and chooses to instead find solitude in the delicate and mesmerizing henna that her Aunt Rahel and cousin Hani bring into her life.

This book is packed with beauty, heartbreak, love, harsh reality and wonder that carries you away to Yemen to experience something new and wonderful.

— From Chelsea

It's hard for me to find books that really grab me and make me want to keep reading.  I often lose interest about a third of the way through.  Well, not with Henna House.  It was soooo good.  

It follows the story of young Adela Damari.  In Yemen, there is a law called The Orphan's Decree.  The decree was introduced in the 1920s and allowed the state to seize any unbetrothed, non-Muslim children whose fathers have died.  This part is real life!  In the story, Adela's father is very sick and they know it's only a matter of time before he dies, so the whole family is racing to find her a husband to avoid her capture by the "confiscator."  


Adela's situation looks dire until her uncle arrives with his wife and daughter.  The two women take Adela under their nurturing wing and introduce her to the powerful world of henna tattooing.  As she grows, we follow her family through the tumultuous life that a Yemenite Jew faced in the early twentieth century.


Think One-Thousand White Women meets The Red Tent and you will have Henna House.

— From Stephanie


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.

About the Author

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.

Praise For…

A captivatingand evocative novel, at once intensely intimate and sweeping in scope. NomiEve is a wonderful writer—compassionate, intelligent, assured—and her deeply felt, richly imagined bookwill stay with me for a long time.
— Molly Antopol, author of The UnAmericans

“This was a book I had to read twice:the first time to rush through quickly to find out what will ultimately happento the characters, and the second time to slowly savor the descriptions ofthese marvelous, exotic people and locales. Nomi Eve captivated me.”
— Maggie Anton, author of Rashi’s Daughters and Rav Hisda’s Daughter

Nomi Eve's novel is a heady mixof henna, history, and the power of words written on skin, sand, andpaper. An engrossing, surprising, compelling read.
— Indira Ganesan, author of As Sweet as Honey

Product Details
ISBN: 9781476740270
ISBN-10: 1476740275
Publisher: Scribner
Publication Date: August 12th, 2014
Pages: 320
Language: English
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