Cover image for The covenant
The covenant
Ragen, Naomi.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : St. Martin's Press, 2004.
Physical Description:
viii, 276 pages ; 25 cm
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Living in Jerusalem, Elise Margulies fears for the lives of her husband and daughter every day. Then comes the day when her worst fears come true. Cancer specialist Dr. Jonathan Margulies drives his young daughter home from her ballet recital. His bullet-ridden car is found empty on the side of the road hours later. Elise, in the last stages of a difficult pregnancy, desperately calls her grandmother Leah in America for help and unknowingly revives a decades-old oath. Over five terror and hope-filled days during which ordinary people join the front lines against terrorism, the ties that bind two generations form a powerful alliance against contemporary evil.

Author Notes

Naomi Ragen is an author, playwright and journalist whose knowledgeable and intimate portraits of contemporary Jewish life have earned her an international following and the fierce loyalty of a growing list of readers. An American, she has lived in Jerusalem for the past thirty years.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

When Elise and Jon moved into their home in Maaleh Sara, Judea, they didn't realize that they would soon be considered illegal occupiers and that terrorists might be laying in wait. Indeed, one day the unthinkable happens: Jon and the couple's young daughter, Ilana, are taken hostage at gunpoint and ransomed for an impossible political price. When Elise calls her grandmother Leah in America, she sets in motion a series of sprawling events that spring, at least in part, from an oath made at Auschwitz. Blending past and present, Ragen outlines some of the hugely complicated issues that exist in the Middle East today, and though her political sympathies seem clear early on, as events play out and more characters (perhaps too many) enter the mix, there are some welcome surprises. Innocents become political pawns, and politics becomes personal in this raw, poignant novel wrapped around a decades-old conflict. --Stephanie Zvirin Copyright 2004 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

Ragen, an American writer who's lived in Israel for more than 30 years, blends tragedies of the past with headline news of today in her gripping, emotionally charged sixth novel. It's 2002, and the Margulies family-oncologist Jonathan; his pregnant, American-born wife, Elise; and their daughter, Ilana-are contentedly living in a Jerusalem settlement, until one day, on their way home, Jonathan and Ilana are kidnapped by Hamas. Elise's frantic call to her Bubbee Leah in Brooklyn reunites four women-now grandmas and great-grandmas-who, as girls, made the titular covenant: if they survived Auschwitz, they would become "one person, risking everything, giving everything, to help each other live in happiness all the days of our lives." Leah gathers up fellow New Yorker Esther, now a cosmetics millionaire; Paris nightclub owner Ariana; and Polish political activist Maria to help find the kidnap victims. It's a race against time, as the women wield their considerable influence and the Israeli army desperately tries to intercede with the kidnappers before the captives are killed. Ragen weaves in deeper, more serious undertones than the thriller plot suggests, touching on the stubborn pride and the serious purpose that keeps Israelis fighting (or, in some cases, not fighting) for their fragile country, "the land that God promised to the Jewish people in his Covenant to Abraham." Agent, Lisa Bankoff. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Auschwitz, 1943. Four women-Leah, Esther, Maria, and Ariana-make a covenant, vowing to protect and help one another for life, if only God will allow them to survive. Fast-forward to 2002, and Leah's granddaughter Elise is living in Israel with her husband, Jonathan, and daughter Ilana. What starts out as an ordinary day for Jonathan, a cancer specialist, becomes a nightmare as he and his young daughter are taken hostage by Arab militants, who threaten to kill them unless their demands are met. Desperate, Elise calls her grandmother for help, and the covenant is renewed. What follows are five days of suspense, terror, and hope as the four women reunite to help a loved one. Ragen, a well-known author of Jewish fiction (e.g., The Sacrifice of Tamar), has written a fast-paced thriller that eerily echoes reality. She deftly puts a face on terrorism, which will leave an impression on every reader. Recommended for all public libraries, especially those with a large Jewish population.-Marika Zemke, West Bloomfield Twp. P.L., MI (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.