Dara Horn’s new novel about a Jewish soldier and spy for the Union army during the Civil War captured my attention immediately. Jacob Rappaport’s missions lead him to vividly portray meetings with Judah P. Benjamin, the first Jewish Cabinet member in U.S. history and close advisor to Confederate President Jefferson Davis. Rappaport’s assignment — to get involved with his father’s business associate Philip Levy and his Rebel spy daughters — brings humor and romance to the story. Repeatedly, Rappaport must choose between family loyalty and political ideology. The author doesn’t shy away from describing the gruesome grit of war and the brutality of slavery. Much Jewish culture is woven into the tale as well. We witness the paradox of a Passover Seder in the home of Jewish slave owners, as well as the rampant anti-Semitism of this time. This well researched book should appeal to Jewish history buffs as well as readers who enjoy an intelligent love story.
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Miriam Bradman Abrahams is a Cuban-born, Brooklyn-raised, Long Island-residing mom. She is Hadassah Nassau’s One Region One Book chairlady, a freelance essayist, and a certified yoga instructor who has loved reviewing books for the JBC for the past ten years.