Happy Monday and welcome to my stop on the blog tour for REBEL DAUGHTER by Lori Kaufmann! I’m so excited because today I have an excerpt of the book to share with you! This book is truly amazing and I’m so so excited to for you to find out more about it and Lori, PLUS enter for a chance to win a print copy of the book!
Rebel Daughter by Lori Banov Kaufmann
Published on February 9, 2021 by Delacorte Press
Genres: YA, Historical Fiction
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Esther dreams of so much more than the marriage her parents have arranged to a prosperous silversmith. Always curious and eager to explore, she must accept the burden of being the dutiful daughter. Yet she is torn between her family responsibilities and her own desires; she longs for the handsome Joseph, even though he treats her like a child, and is confused by her attraction to the Roman freedman Tiberius, a man who should be her sworn enemy.
Meanwhile, the growing turmoil threatens to tear apart not only her beloved city, Jerusalem, but also her own family. As the streets turn into a bloody battleground between rebels and Romans, Esther's journey becomes one of survival. She remains fiercely devoted to her family, and braves famine, siege, and slavery to protect those she loves.
This emotional and impassioned saga, based on real characters and meticulous research, seamlessly blends the fascinating story of the Jewish people with a timeless protagonist determined to take charge of her own life against all odds.
After the incident with the Roman soldiers, her father seemed to age years. The cut on his face healed, but he now walked with a cane. Slow, tentative steps replaced his once-brisk stride. They used to learn together in the early evenings—her favorite part of the day—but no more. He was too tired, he’d say. She missed his small, dark study, its shelves stacked with rolled parchment scrolls, its smell of the wax tablets.
The lessons had started when Esther was a little girl. Initially Hanan had tried to teach her older brothers, Yehuda and Shimon, the words of the prophets and the law. Yehuda had quickly outgrown their father’s teachings and gone to the study house to learn with Rabbi Yochanan Ben Zakkai, the renowned scholar. Shimon made shadow pictures on the wall every time Hanan bent over the scrolls. She couldn’t understand how Shimon was bored by the same stories she found so exciting: Cain killing his brother, Abraham lifting the blade to his own son, and Joseph languishing in prison. Esther would sit on the floor in the corner, hugging her knees to her chest, hanging on to every word.
Sarah, her mother, would peer into the study and cast a disapproving glance. One eye, half-shaded by a drooping, pink eyelid, seemed to see right inside Esther. There was no hiding Esther’s greed for learning; her mother knew everything.
“Why are you filling the girl’s head with Torah stories?” her mother asked. “Will this help her suckle a child or knead dough? Will this teach her the laws of purity?”
“She thirsts for knowledge,” Hanan explained. “And her mind is like a plastered cistern that doesn’t lose a drop. Besides, what else should she be doing?”
Sarah placed her hands on her hips. “The Gamaliel girls are spinning flax on their roof. They’re eking out the last little bit of moonlight to be productive.”
Hanan shook his head. “Their mother is putting them on display so everyone will think they’re hard workers. They’re not spinning for yarn. They’re spinning for husbands.”
Despite Sarah’s protests, Hanan never made Esther leave the study. One day, Shimon didn’t show up. When he didn’t come the next day, or the day after that, Esther moved from the floor to the bench. Hanan continued to tell her stories but balked when Esther said she wanted to learn to read Hebrew.
“Girls don’t read,” he said.
“What about Deborah? She was one of the Judges. She saved Israel from disasters.”
He smiled indulgently. “You’re going to save the Jewish people from disaster?”
“Maybe,” she said. “Queen Esther did.”
“Yes, she did.”
“It even says in the Megillah that Queen Esther wrote a letter. So she must have known how to read too!”
Hanan sat back in his chair. Esther could tell he was trying not to smile.
“And besides,” she added, eager to press her advantage, “I’ll have to read my marriage contract, won’t I?” With that, Esther knew she had won.
Tonight, for the first time since the attack, Hanan called her into his study. Esther bounded into his room and sat down. He walked to his desk with a laborious shuffle and lowered himself onto the chair. She hoped she still remembered the Greek letters he’d been teaching her. She had learned to read and write in Hebrew faster than he’d anticipated, and now they were starting on Greek.
Her father put the fingertips of each hand together, like a temple in the air. She reached for the abacus on his desk, moved the small beads up and down in their grooves, waiting for him to speak. The echoes of the click, click, click of bronze beads hovered in the air.
“I’ve always been a counter too,” he said at last. “That’s what I do. I count the columns in the portico, the shekels in the treasury, the hides to be sold, the jars of incense. I count the wages of the stonemasons and bricklayers and carpenters.”
He sighed and sat back. “Even though Yom Kippur is past, I’m still making lists, counting all the good things I’ve done and all the bad.”
“You don’t have any bad deeds,” Esther said.
“Everyone who has lived has erred. I’ve sinned against God. I’m angry with Him for giving life, then taking it away.
“What are you talking about? God isn’t taking anything away.”
“Not yet, but He will. I used to count how many days I lived; now I count how many I have left.”
“I don’t like when you talk like this.”
“The truth often makes us uncomfortable,” he said, then smiled sadly. “But the thing about the truth is that it doesn’t go away if we ignore it. And the truth is that no one lives forever. I want to make sure you and the family will be safe when I’m gone. You know, most girls are betrothed by the time they’re thirteen.”
Esther knew the road she was supposed to take, but she didn’t want to travel it—at least not yet. She wanted to see where the other roads went first.
“I can’t get married now! If I’m married, I’ll have to move to my husband’s house, and we won’t be able to continue my studies. Even if my husband lets me read, I won’t have time.”
Hanan sighed. “Maybe your mother was right about filling your head with learning.” He sat up in the chair. “Esther, you need someone from a good family to be responsible for you.”
“Why can’t I be responsible for myself?”
“You’re a woman. You need a man to protect you, especially now, with all the unrest.”
Esther frowned. “There’s always unrest. The Romans have tormented us for years.”
“You’re right. But now people want to fight back.”
“Good. I hope we kill all of them.”
“Esther!” he admonished. “How can you say that?”
“How can you not after what they did to you?”
A pained expression crossed his face. “I thought we had agreed not to talk about that.” The truth often makes us uncomfortable. She bit her lip.
After a long pause, he said, “Those were a few soldiers having their sport. Yes, the Romans can be coarse and greedy, but they’re not forbidding our prayers and customs. Besides, Judea is a small province with no army. How can we defeat the most powerful empire in the world?”
“Yehuda says we will.” Her older brother claimed that it was written in the Holy Scripture: at the End of Days, the Jews will vanquish their enemy, and God will establish His kingdom on Earth. “Yehuda said the prophets have already predicted our victory.”
“I’ve read the prophecies of Daniel and Isaiah too. You can find anything in there.”
Esther squirmed in her seat. She didn’t want to talk about war…or marriage. “Can we learn now?” she asked.
“Maybe another time,” he sighed. “It’s late.”
From Rebel Daughter. Copyright 2021 Lori Kaufmann. Reprinted with permission from HarperCollins.
As soon as she learned of the discovery of the first-century tombstone that inspired Rebel Daughter, Lori Banov Kaufmann wanted to know more. She was captivated by the ancient love story the stone revealed and resolved to bring it back to life.
Before becoming a full-time writer, Lori was a strategy consultant for high-tech companies. She has an AB from Princeton University and an MBA from the Harvard Business School. She lives in Israel with her husband and four adult children.
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Have you added this amazing book to your tbr yet? Let me know in the comments and have a splendiferous day!