The ProsenPeople

Read an Excerpt from Lore Segal's Half the Kingdom

Monday, November 10, 2014 | Permalink

Last year, we were excited to feature Lore Segal—of whom we're adoring fans here at Jewish Book Council—and her newest novel Half the Kingdom, which was published in hardcover by Melville House in October 2013. We were even lucky enough to interview her! Now we come with more good news from the Lore Segal front: in honor of last week's paperback release of Half the Kingdom (get excited book clubs...), we not only have an excerpt from the book to share with you, but we're also giving away FIVE copies of the book. If you want to get your hands on one, it's quite easy, just enter here. The winners will be selected at random on November 18th. [Note: This contest has now ended.]

The below excerpt (pages 116-120 of Half the Kingdom) has been reprinted with the permission of Melville House.

Ilka Weiss lay on the sofa with her legs up. She asked for a blanket. Little David helped, impatiently, to tuck it around his grandmother’s legs. He said, “So, go on.”

Maggie said, “Let Grandmother rest,” but Ilka said, “So the next time King David went down to fight those Philistines ...” and Maggie said, “Mom, Jeff and I stay away from the fighting.”

“Mommy,” said little David, “you can go. And take Stevie. Stevie, stop it.” Baby Steven’s newest skill was turning pages and he was practicing on the King James Bible on Grandmother’s lap.

“Not to worry. I know the story in my head. But let’s let Mommy and Stevie stay, because we’re coming to the baaaad stuff.”

“Go on,” the little boy said.

“King David,” went on Ilka, “was a great soldier, the soldier of soldiers, only he was growing old. King David was tired. His spear was an encumbrance.” Grandmother Ilka demonstrated the difficulty with which the aging king raised his weapon. “His armor was too heavy for him. Climbing the hill, he had to reach for one little low bush after another because his balance wasn’t what it used to be. He watched with a thrill of envy—with a thrill and with envy—how his young soldiers ran ahead while he stood and just breathed. Couldn’t tell if it was his hiatus hernia, his heart, or an attack of anxiety be- cause they all three felt the same.”

“And,” little David prompted.

“And Ishbi-benob, a Philistine of the race of giants, was wearing his new armor. His spear weighed three hundred shekels.” Grandmother lightly swung the idea of its superhuman weight above her head, “and he was going to strike King David down when—Stevie if you don’t leave King James alone, Grandmother can’t check the name of the fellow—here he is in verse 17: Abishai. He came and struck Ishbi-benob to death.”


“Sorry,” Ilka said. “And King David’s men said to King David, ‘You’re becoming a liability. Next war, you’re staying home.’ And there was another war . . .” Ilka looked apologetically at her daughter, “and there was another giant. He had six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot—which is how many digits, quick!”


“Very good. And this giant with his twenty-four digits just laughed at King David, and mocked him.”

“Why?” asked little David in a tone of strong disapproval.

“Why? Why indeed!” said his grandmother. “Because King David was old? Because he was a Hebrew? Just because he was on the other team? But King David’s nephew—his name was Jonathan—came running, and Jonathan knocked that mocking, laughing giant down just a little bit. Knocked the wind out of him.”

Little David suggested, “They should have tried talking it out,” in which he was going to remember being reinforced by a hug from his mother, and his grandmother’s kiss on the top of his head, for both women were against striking people dead, and the younger believed there was something one could be doing about it.

“They should have talked,” Grandmother Ilka agreed, “without precondition. And now,” she went on, “King David got really, really old and stricken in years and they brought him a blanket and another and more blankets but he could not and could not get warm.”

“How come?” asked little David.

“Because he was old,” Grandmother Ilka said. “And King David’s men said to him, “Let us go out and find you a beautiful young girl to lie with you.”

“What for?” asked little David.

“To make him warm. The blankets hadn’t done any good. So they sent out throughout all the land and found a beautiful young girl. Her name was Abishag the Shunammite and they brought her to the king.”

“Did she want to come?” asked David.

“A very troubling question,” said his grandmother.

“I always thought it was horrible,” said his mother.

“Yes, it was! Well, hold on, now. You know,” she said to David, “how your mommy had to rush me to Emergency, and then I was in the hospital, and had to go for rehab, and your mommy brought me back, and last night I had to go to Emergency again, and your daddy is coming in half an hour to take you and Stevie home, and Mommy is going to stay and take care of me? Maybe Abishag was one of those people who stay and take care of people, like your mommy, because she is good, which is a great mystery to the rest of us.”

“Mom, don’t,” said Maggie irritably. “I do it because I want to.”

“Which,” said Ilka, continuing to address the child, “is another mystery: Good people don’t think they are being good when they like doing a good thing. If they did it with gritted teeth, then they would think that it was good! Isn’t that funny of them?”

The little boy was listening to the old woman with an alert, bemused look.

“And Abishag,” continued his grandmother, “was young and beautiful and she cared for King David.”

“And made him warm.”


Intrigued? Want to continue reading? Buy a copy of Half the Kingdom here.

Passover Giveaway!

Friday, March 23, 2012 | Permalink

Posted by Naomi Firestone-Teeter

Looking for a great afikomen gift? Well, we've got it. It's Lesléa Newman's newest book, A Sweet Passover, which features Miriam, who is "sick, sick, sick, of matzah," until she learns "why we eat unleavened bread during the eight days of Passover"...

We're giving away one signed copy of A Sweet Passover, which you can win by posting your favorite Passover recipe below (or a link to one), a link to your favorite Passover recipe on Twitter using hashtag #JBCBooks, or on our Facebook page. A winner will be chosen at random on Tuesday, March 27th. 

And, to get the juices flowing, we've included the recipe for "The Best Matzoh Brei in the World," as told to the author by her father:

This is a fun meal to make with the help of an adult. Always make sure an adult helps you when you are cutting items and using the stove or other hot surface.

This recipe makes one large matzah brei.


7 pieces of matzah
warm water
3 eggs
¼ cup milk
pinch of salt (optional)
2 tbsp butter

toppings such as applesauce, sugar and cinnamon, maple syrup, sour cream, and salt and pepper


Large mixing bowl
Small mixing bowl
2 large plates
fork or whisk
measuring cup
mixing spoon
frying pan

Break up seven pieces of matzah into small pieces and soak in warm water in the large bowl for one minute. Then drain by covering the bowl with a large plate and tipping it to let the excess water run out.

Using the fork or whisk, beat three eggs together in the small bowl with the milk and a pinch of salt (optional), and then add this mixture to the crumbled, drained matzah. Mix together well.

In a large frying pan, melt the butter

Pour the matzah brei mixture into the frying pan. Spread it out evenly so that it resembles a large pancake. Cover and cook over a very low heat for about ten minutes, until crisp and brown on one side (raise the edge of the matzah brie with a spatula to check if it’s crisp and brown).

When the matzah brei is cooked on one side, turn it over by placing the other large plate over the pan and then flipping the whole thing over. While the matzah brei is on the plate, add more butter to the frying pan, if necessary. Then slide the matzah brei from the plate back into the pan to cook the other side. Again, cover and cook over very low heat for about ten minutes.

When the second side of the matzah brei is crisp and brown, it is done. Cut into wedges and serve with applesauce, sugar and cinnamon, maple syrup, sour cream, or salt and pepper. Essen In gezunt!