Choosing the “Newbie” category and not being good at following audiobooks, I took on the 2023 Audiobook Challenge around halfway through 2023 to read seven audiobooks before December 31st, 2023. This is the second book I have listened to.
Zoe Klein has written a debut novel that keeps the listeners attention, provides excitement in adventuresome scenes, and is lyrical in its word choices and phrasing. The novel introduces us to the main character, Page Brookstone, an archeologist/anthropologist , who meets a couple, Ibrahim and Naima Baraket, who beg her to excavate their living room to discover the source of ghosts/spirits who “haunt” their home. Risking damage to her professional reputation, Page visits the couple and has an “experience” she cannot name that causes her to take on the project amid taunts of being a ghost hunter and kook.
Although Page has doubts, soon an ancient cistern is dug out, the excavation expanded, and finally the discovery of a lifetime–two lovers buried in one casket arranged in an eternal embrace. Also in the coffin are scrolls attributed to the woman, titled “The Scrolls of Anatiya” full of exquisite poetry. The author begins each chapter with these imaginary chapter and verse quotations from Anatiya which bring delight to the reader. Even more exciting, the scrolls identify the male in the coffin as Jeremiah, the Hebrew prophet, the “Weeping Prophet.”
During the excavation, Page becomes involved in a forbidden romance, then is pursued by religious zealots who do not want the casket exhumed, professional cohorts who want to steal Page’s glory, and “relentless critics” who question the authenticity of the scrolls. All this turmoil puts Page’s “dig” and reputation in question, and she and her best friend go “on the run” with the scrolls to translate them and hide them from authorities who demand them. Danger and flying bullets and explosives follow them, leading to an exciting conclusion and a satisfying epilogue.
This novel has been compared to The Red Tent and The People of the Book because of its Hebrew origins. I have read both of those, and Drawing in the Dust far surpasses both of those novels. I highly recommend it to listen to/read for a literary experience.