Henna House

Henna House

A Novel

Book - 2014 | First Scribner hardcover edition.
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An evocative and stirring novel about a young woman living in the fascinating and rarely portrayed community of Yemenite Jews of the mid-twentieth century, from the acclaimed author of The Family Orchard .

In the tradition of Anita Diamant's The Red Tent , Henna House is the enthralling story of a woman, her family, their community, and the rituals that bind them.

Nomi Eve's vivid saga begins in Yemen in 1920, when Adela Damari's parents desperately seek a future husband for their young daughter. After passage of the Orphan's Decree, any unbetrothed Jewish child left orphaned will be instantly adopted by the local Muslim community. With her parents' health failing, and no spousal prospects in sight, Adela's situation looks dire until her uncle arrives from a faraway city, bringing with him a cousin and aunt who introduce Adela to the powerful rituals of henna tattooing. Suddenly, Adela's eyes are opened to the world, and she begins to understand what it means to love another and one's heritage. She is imperiled, however, when her parents die and a prolonged drought threatens their long-established way of life. She and her extended family flee to the city of Aden where Adela encounters old loves, discovers her true calling, and is ultimately betrayed by the people and customs she once held dear.

Henna House is an intimate family portrait and a panorama of history. From the traditions of the Yemenite Jews, to the far-ranging devastation of the Holocaust, to the birth of the State of Israel, Eve offers an unforgettable coming-of-age story and a textured chronicle of a fascinating period in the twentieth century.

Henna House is a rich, spirited, and sensuous tale of love, loss, betrayal, forgiveness, and the dyes that adorn the skin and pierce the heart.
Publisher: New York :, Scribner,, 2014.
Edition: First Scribner hardcover edition.
ISBN: 9781476740270
Characteristics: ix, 305 pages : map ; 24 cm


From Library Staff

Jcheng1234 May 04, 2018

I learned so much about Yemenite Jews living from 1920-1950 and the intriguing rituals of henna tattooing and hidden meanings of henna patterns from this book. Beautifully written story about love and betrayal. Adela, since 8 years old was living in the constant fear that she would be confisca... Read More »

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LoganLib_Phoebe Sep 19, 2018

A compelling story of family, love and betrayal set in Yemen in the 1930s. The importance of the henna traditions in Yemenite Jewish culture is intertwined into the story throughout.

Jcheng1234 May 04, 2018

I learned so much about Yemenite Jews living from 1920-1950 and the intriguing rituals of henna tattooing and hidden meanings of henna patterns from this book. Beautifully written story about love and betrayal. Adela, since 8 years old was living in the constant fear that she would be confiscated and taken to live with a Muslim family once her sick father died and she was not engaged to anyone under the Orphan Decree. Her live changed when her cousins came. Asaf, her first love and Hani who introduced her to the art of henna. I am fascinated by the intricate designs and hidden meanings of henna. The lives and history of Yemenite Jews were well researched. The characters and their mother/daughter/cousins relationships were well written. I kept thinking of them even after finished reading the book. A very interesting book to read!

Mar 16, 2017

What a beautifully written story. This was a group of people I really knew nothing about and I've always been interested in henna. This is about Adela Damari starting in the 1920s in Yemen. It follows her life as she tries to avoid the Confiscator who takes Jewish children as part of the Orphan's Decree and they are instantly adopted by the local Muslim community. I enjoyed the relationship between Adela and her cousin Hani who introduces her to henna application and meanings. I enjoyed the harsh relationship she had with her mother. This is so worth the time. I would have read it faster but I had other things going on. This is one you will get lost in and will lose track of time because you will be absorbed into the characters lives. It will leave you thinking about the characters long after you put the book down.

Jul 11, 2016

While I liked "The Family Orchard," this is a more mature work, more focused on a single extended family of Yemenite Jews over two generations. Primarily the story of Adela, whose life is greatly impacted by living in a Muslim area where the law allows girls whose fathers die to be adopted into Muslim families. Her father's poor health and her mother's inability to find a match for her make for an unstable if loving childhood. Then two different cousins seem to bring promise, both of matrimony, and the loving ceremonies of the henna. How these play out through WW II make for a fascinating story. The ending is a bit rushed, and could be a story of its own. I await another book from Eve, who clearly does her research. She also knows how to tell her story, with a touch of magical realism.

Jun 20, 2016

I enjoyed this book much more than The Family Orchard, by the same author. I loved the descriptions of the henna process and how the women bonded through the henna ceremony and their individual choices of motif. I found the author's use of foreshadowing a bit heavy handed, however, to the point where I wondered if I really wanted to keep going, because surely, they weren't all going to live happily ever after. (Ultimately, I was satisfied with how it ended.) I thought it was interesting how once the family left their village and moved to Aden, they started to catch up with life in the real world. Some of the major events near the end seemed rushed, and more detail would have been interesting, especially since it was a glimpse into a slice of life not often written about, but this was a story told from Adela's point of view and focused on her relationship with her family and loves. Overall, I enjoyed it.

May 17, 2016

8 out of 10. Great read

Oct 28, 2014

The Henna House is a wonderful read! It broke my heart many times as it told the story of the Yemenite Jewish community from 1920 through 1950 - many terrible things happened to Jews during that time. I loved the stories of Adela's extended female family and the traditions of henna. I love when I learn while engrossed in reading a novel! Highly recommended.

Cynthia_N Oct 13, 2014

Wonderful story! The author brought the characters to life and I was thinking about them even when I wasn't reading about them. The author made my world larger by creating this story which takes place in an unfamiliar location.

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monique1390 Sep 26, 2014

monique1390 thinks this title is suitable for 16 years and over


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