The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem by Sarit Yishai-Levi

The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem by Sarit Yishai-Levi

In Sarit Yishai-Levi’s newly translated novel The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem, Gabriela feels compelled to understand the conflicts and misunderstandings ever-present in her Sephardic family. Her empty relationship with her mother Luna—the most beautiful woman in Jerusalem—is finally addressed when her grandmother Rosa and aunt Rachel hesitatingly reveal the tragedies, secrets, and betrayals that have molded the Ermosa family’s complex lives.

Much of the novel focuses on the mother-daughter dynamic. The nuances of each woman’s distinct character is revealed through her fraught interactions with other female relatives. Gabriela learns that generations of Ermosa women have been cursed by men who don’t love them; the emotional distance and hostility of their husbands gives these women a desperation that colors all of their relationships. While Gabriela gains empathy for her relatives, she finds her own life conflicted and unsettled. The quick resolution of the family saga seems too abrupt and neatly packaged in contrast to the gradually paced chapters that precede it.

Read full review at Jewish Book Council

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