4 reviews

Safekeeping: A Novel
by Jessamyn Hope

Published: 2015-06-09
Paperback : 371 pages
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7 clubs reading this now
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Recommended to book clubs by 2 of 4 members
A dazzling debut novel about love, loss, and the courage it takes to start over.

It’s 1994 and Adam, a drug addict from New York City, arrives at a kibbutz in Israel with a medieval sapphire brooch. To redress a past crime, he must give the priceless heirloom to a woman his grandfather ...
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A dazzling debut novel about love, loss, and the courage it takes to start over.

It’s 1994 and Adam, a drug addict from New York City, arrives at a kibbutz in Israel with a medieval sapphire brooch. To redress a past crime, he must give the priceless heirloom to a woman his grandfather loved when he was a Holocaust refugee on the kibbutz fifty years earlier. But first, he has to track this mystery woman down?a task that proves more complicated than expected.

On the kibbutz Adam joins other lost souls: Ulya, the ambitious and beautiful Soviet émigrée; Farid, the lovelorn Palestinian farmhand; Claudette, the French Canadian Catholic with OCD; Ofir, the Israeli teenager wounded in a bus bombing; and Ziva, the old Socialist Zionist firebrand who founded the kibbutz. Driven together by love, hostility, hope, and fear, their fates become forever entangled as they each get one last shot at redemption.

In the middle of that fateful summer glows the magnificent brooch with its perilous history spanning three continents and seven centuries. With insight and beauty, Safekeeping tackles that most human of questions: How can we expect to find meaning and happiness when we know that nothing lasts?

Editorial Review

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Adam trudged up the darkening country road with a giant centipede stuck to his back, wiggling its army of legs. He could see to the top of the hill, where the road ended with the gate to the kibbutz. A rusted wrought-iron sign arched over the entrance, stamping the yellow sky in both Hebrew and Latin letters: SADOT HADAR. Fields of Splendor, his grandfather had taught him. The eucalyptuses towering along the left side of the road refreshed the air with their sweet, medicinal scent. To the right, horses grazed in a willowy meadow, and beyond them, a sliver of moon floated over the shadowed face of Mount Carmel. Was this what his grandfather saw when he first approached the kibbutz? Adam wiped his brow. He was sweat-soaked. His jaw ached from clamping his teeth, and his swollen feet felt fused to the insides of his sneakers. But it could’ve been worse. Last time he went cold turkey, the centipedes were crawling out of his mouth. ... view entire excerpt...

Discussion Questions

1) Safekeeping features a diverse cast of characters, varied not only in age, gender, religion, and ethnicity, but also in their personal ambitions, strengths, and weaknesses. Does anything unite them? Did you relate to some characters more than others?

2) Set on a kibbutz, Safekeeping explores the tension between personal identity and the experience of belonging to a community. How else is this tension explored in the novel? Do you experience this tension in your own life?

3) In literature an object can convey a theme or emotion. In Safekeeping, what does the brooch represent? The pomegranate? Are there any other evocative objects in the novel?

4) The title Safekeeping applies to more than the brooch. What else in the novel needed, and perhaps failed, to be kept safe? What do each of the characters want to protect?

5) Safekeeping highlights how people persevere despite terrible loss. How do the different characters react to hardship? Why is Adam less capable of coping than the others, seeking escape in drugs and alcohol? Can he be blamed for his weakness? What questions does the novel raise about willpower?

6) All the characters in Safekeeping are affected by the past—their own memories and the consequences of history. How do the characters differ in the ways they deal with the situations history has given them? Can we decide how much of the past we will allow to determine our future? Do you think what happened to your ancestors affects who you are today?

7) What is redemption? Are all the characters in Safekeeping seeking it? Do any of them achieve it? Is there a difference between redemption and fulfillment?

8) Some of the characters in Safekeeping are exiled from their homes; others want to protect the home they have; others dream of a better home elsewhere; and a few worry they no longer belong to any place. What do we mean when we call a place “home”? How much of a person’s sense of security and self is tied to place? Is the concept of home important to you?

9) Most of Safekeeping takes place over the summer of 1994, a precarious time for Israel. It was the beginning of Palestinian suicide bombings but also the height of the Peace Process. Elsewhere in the world the Iron Curtain had fallen, apartheid was ending in South Africa, and the United States economy was on an upswing. Many of the characters, especially young Ofir, are optimistic about the next century, confident it’s going to be so much better than the last one. How did you feel when reading Ofir’s optimism? Did you relate or find him naïve?

10) How did the ending of the novel make you feel? Did it end the way you expected? Do you think it realistically could have ended otherwise for any of the characters?

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

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Member Reviews

Overall rating:
by Lois M. (see profile) 02/12/16

by Donna G. (see profile) 02/12/16

by Barbara U. (see profile) 04/28/16

  "Safekeeping"by Carol K. (see profile) 04/20/16

Well written and insightful as to why and how a kibbutz was formed and run when Israel became a country.

by Cathy H. (see profile) 11/11/15

  "Safekeeping"by Sonia C. (see profile) 11/10/15

Our group felt there were chapters missing that could otherwise make this book more cohesive. We also felt it had too many loose ends and had trouble reconciling the author's ending choice.

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