The Garden of Ruth
By Eva Etzioni Halevy
The Garden of Ruth is a novel about a young girl named Osnath who is torn between her need to find out and uncover the mystery and details behind the woman the in the Bible’s Book of Ruth. Osnath is the granddaughter of Pninah and has decided to make it her life’s journey and goal to learn more about Ruth.
Beautiful, clever, persistent and educated a really strong combination for a woman of her time. Osnath, a scribe, like her grandmother, Pninah visits Bethlehem with her grandmother and uncle, the prophet Samuel and finds herself torn between two men. Wanting to visit the scroll room of this house she was visiting, she comes across a piece of parchment. As she continues to explore her relatives scroll room, she learns that the parchment was addressed to Ruth the Moabite, who was the great-grandmother of the man she fell in love with, the next king of Israel, David. As Osnath begins to learn more about Ruth and wants to delve into her life and her secret past, her efforts are waylaid and thwarted by David’s older brother, Eliab. Eliab intimates that Ruth’ s past is secret and too shocking to reveal.
Osnath is in love with David. David is a smooth talker and convinces her that he will marry her in due time. However, upon being anointed the next King of Israel he meets with King Saul and any hope of Osnath becoming his wife is lost as he is to marry King Saul’s daughter.
David and Eliab, two brothers who would not want Ruth’s past uncovered for fear of losing their inheritance. Although, Osnath wants to uncover the reasons why they want her life to kept a secret, there is a second story or plot that comes into play. Osnath is in love with both David and Eliab. She feels connected to Ruth, and they share the same joys, sorrows and heartaches. When reading this book you learn of Ruth’s first born not living and many other areas where she and Osnath’s live appear to mirror each other’s.
When there is information to be had or a mystery to be solved I will delve into the subject or persist in finding out what I need to in order to solve the problem or find out what I need to for my research or for anything else. Osnath is a persistent young and intelligent girl who has an advantage over many other girls her age. She can read and write and understands the importance of having the skill. I love the fact that she does not back down and has managed to get Eliab to give her the information about Ruth in order to learn more about her past.
If Ruth could speak she would tell you how she met the man called The Unnamed and how she developed a relationship with him. The piece of the missive that she found had his name on it and information leading to the fact he and Ruth were close. But, it would not be until her husband died of a serious illness and she met him in the market.
“Today the Unnamed from Bethlehem comes to me
It was from the gods
It was marvelous in my eyes.
Just what this means and how they come together you need to read this for yourself.
“I met with him many times. I went to his house. We stayed in the bedchamber and my need for love was aroused. The only regret that I have is that these months of encounters with him flew by so fast. Disclosing our lives to each other. I told him about my father and my childhood. He told me about how his brothers made him fend for himself and they did not afford him their protection. But, then the unthinkable happened. He told me he had to leave and go back to his own land. Something inside of me froze. He did not seem concerned with my pain and the one thing I needed to tell him, I never did.
Stating that I would always be in his heart were meaningless words. The fact that I was carrying his seed, made me feel even more betrayed by his words and actions.”
What was she going to do? How would she deal with her betrayal to her late husband? What would her decision be about having this child?
Naomi, her mother –in-law was a wise and wonderful woman whose advice Ruth valued and whose opinions were strong and mindful. Naomi was leaving her land and going back to Israel. Ruth decided to make the journey with her.
But, as we get to know Ruth we learn of the sorrow of losing her first born. Osnath’s attempt to mend the ways between her and Adah her husband’s first wife, do not succeed . Both women struggling to find a place for themselves in the lives of the men they loved. Ruth worked along side the people of Israel and met and related to her late husband made Ruth feel welcome.
Defying Torah Law, both Ruth and Osnath are naïve in the ways of men, intelligent in their knowledge of the laws of the Torah and fall prey to the wiles of the men they both love. As Ruth becomes more enmeshed in her new live, she becomes involved with a man named Boaz, and what happens next will defy all of the conventions of Torah law and let you know that women in Biblical times are no different than they are today. But, Ruth did ponder her thoughts and even though she went with the ways of the flesh, as did Osnath, you have to respect both women for pursuing their goals and never giving up.
Boaz is her next of kin and goes to the man called the Unnamed to find out his intentions toward Ruth. Learning that he will honor his feelings for her and now has a wife, Ruth attempts to dissuade him again, succumbs to his advances, but fails. Boaz shuns her for a while and then recants. Finding out the truth behind her lover and what transpired between him and Boaz, enlightens Ruth to just what kind of man her lover really is. Will she find happiness with Boaz, what happens next?
Osnath reads what really happened to Ruth’s lover and the circumstances for why he fled his land the crime he committed. The final piece of the puzzle will surprise you and helps Ruth to understand the mystery she wanted to uncover, with the help of Eliab. The real truth as to why he never married or honored Ruth comes out and how Boaz convinced him and why to give her up.
Osnath learns the truth and does write the story of Ruth the way Eliah and her uncle Samuel request. The scroll was placed in the House of the Lord and copied many many times. Ruth’s life as Osnath was closely intertwined. The history related by the author, the disappointments, the hardships, the feminine and the descriptions of the people and the land are so graphically depicted, allows the reader to become one with the story and enter the lives of both of these great women.
To understand and learn what did happen and why to Ruth’s true love and whether she finally does find happiness and more, you need to read this novel, from the author of The Triumph of Deborah and the Song of Hannah.
From beginning to end you learn some much about the struggles of the people of during Osnath and Ruth’s times. But, what does not change is their faith in finding love.
As I read about Ruth, I smiled as my mom’s name is Ruth and so much of her and Osnath remind me of her growing up. My mom is and always was a strong and persistent woman who left no stone unturned. Her true love was my Dad and when she met him there was no turning back. Unrequited love is something that dreams are made of and everyone hopes to find.
Osnath, thank you for honoring the memory of Ruth. Ruth, you deserved to have your memory honored.
Fran Lewis: reviewer
Author of Memories are Precious and the Bertha Series of Books