A must-read although the narrative got a bit tiresome. I mean, women do NOT think of themselves in terms of having shapely legs...
The story is fascinating: two sisters must take a trip for their grandmother, and in doing so, they discover a part of their lives that they hadn't previously known about. And not just a part of their lives, but an entire culture that has been lost, a way of life.
While parts of the book are pat and predictable, the story comes alive like few others during the scenes set in Toledo.
The ghost of the title has an influence on current day characters as they search for their own history and the meaning of their lives in the grand scheme of things. Entertaining reading by not great literature.
I love Naomi Ragen and this book was fast moving and kept my interest .It told an interesting historical tale as well as a predictable romance. The main theme is that you cant run away from your heritage, it is deep in your soul, and that spirituality and rituals are necessary to live life to its fullest.
I found this book to be a wonderful combination of history and narrative, well written and therefore very enjoyable to read. The characters are well drawn and interesting. Although I usually do not enjoy books that require one to believe in the 'paranormal' there was just enough of it in this book to season the story and add a bit of mystery. I highly recommend it.
From Publishers Weekly
Opulent prose, brave female characters and an emphasis on the importance of family and tradition distinguish the latest from bestselling Ragen (Jephte's Daughter). Catherine da Costa is a wealthy New York matron, secure in everything but the future. Having just learned she is to die soon, she fears the family tree will perish as well, since her two 20-something granddaughters, Suzanne and Francesca, are as yet unmarried. Then one night she is visited by a ghost from the distant past her eponymous Renaissance ancestor who urges Catherine to search for the missing pages of a manuscript she wrote. The text is a precious document detailing how, as a Sephardic Jew, she braved the terrors of the Inquisition and went on to become one of the wealthiest and most powerful women in the world. Using her own impending demise as emotional blackmail, Catherine sends the oil-and-water duo of Suzanne and Francesca one devoted to liberal causes, the other to business to Europe to hunt for the pages. Their journey leads to globe-trotting adventure, passionate romance, sibling reconciliation and a disclosure of Hannah's secrets for survival: endurance and faith. The fact that the Nasi-Mendes family is real, with descendants all over the world, adds depth to the fiction, and Ragen uses harrowing descriptions of torture to explain how family members could be forced to turn against one another to avoid the worst of the Inquisition. Moreover, she succeeds in driving home her message about the value of hanging onto cultural identity through maintaining a connection with history, thereby giving a sense of meaning to the present. Fans of her previous work will not be disappointed. Agent, Lisa Bankoff at ICM.
This is a story about the Mendes women, living and gone. If you like romances this one has several beginning with Hannah herself, known as Gracia because of those who wish to obliterate the Jewish people - primarily the church of Rome. She is, as you might guess, Spanish, but the persecution of the Jewish population led to their move to Portugal and other areas. No matter where they settled it seemed that the church followed them hoping to obtain not only their deaths but their riches as well.
Suzannah and Francesca Abrhamson life in New York and have little knowledge of their heritage and ancestors. When their grandmother learns she is dying she convinces the two that they need to track down the pages wirtten by their ancestor, Gracia (Hannah) Mendes whose life was deciated to helping others particularly those of Jewish background. The grandmother has another motive: She wants to see her grandchildren married so the family tree continues. This, then is their story and that of Gracia (Hannah) herself. It's a beautiful tale fill of faith, love and family. Furthermore, it's a tale about the Jewish people, their persecution and efforts to survive. I enjoyed this read very much.