The back-cover blurb is what drew my attention to this book since this is my first read by author Zoe Klein. The story has strong mystical components as well as many references to the story of the Biblical prophet Jeremiah. Readers who are unfamiliar with Jeremiah’s story may find it hard going, but I didn’t have any problems.
Page is an American archaeologist who has been working in Israel for more than a decade on the excavations at Megiddo. She likes her work, but is realizing a sense of dissatisfaction with her current situation. Her long-time friend/mentor and boss recently made a pretty strong pass at her; her refusal and his inability to accept it have resulted in a very strained working relationship. So Page is ripe for change and when a Palestinian couple approach her on the dig, she listens to their story more closely than she realizes. Her boss scoffs at their claims of a haunted chamber underneath their home at Anatot, but Page cannot seem to forget. When she drops by their home on her day off, she quickly becomes drawn into the thrill of discovery and risks her career and professional reputation when she leaves Megiddo and begins work in Anatot.
Those familiar with the story of Jeremiah will either love or hate this story. Klein fleshes out the prophet far beyond what is known and connects her life with that of a young woman who ‘loved’ the prophet. The author quotes from a fictional ‘Scroll of Anatiya’, the story of the young woman from long ago who passionately loved the prophet. Each chapter is headed by a quote and the author admits to having actually written the entire scroll while in school as a parallel to the life of Jeremiah. Biblical purists will no doubt be up in arms and screaming at the extent of poetic license Mrs. Klein uses in her tale.
I found the ‘mystery’ and archaeological discovery portions of the book quite riveting. But I had to wade through the author’s metaphysical meanderings as she psychoanalyzes her lead character during the entire novel. It could just be that I’m shallow–if I want to read a character study, then that’s what I look for; if I want to read an archaeological mystery, then that’s what I want. I just wish the author had limited herself to one or the other and I would have enjoyed “Drawing in the Dust” much more.