Welcome to One Page, a newsletter that transports you into the world of an outstanding book for a few minutes. A couple of times a week, we’ll send you a great passage from a book we love. (To subscribe, unsubscribe, or donate, see below.) Red Room Editors Gina and Huntington selected a page from The Dovekeepers (2011), by Alice Hoffman, to share with you today:
My mother trained me in the making of fever charms and victory charms, although she refused to deal in hate spells, used to undermine rivals, something that was lacking in my book of recipes. I knew how to cast charms that would dissolve a spell and those which would cure reptile bites. Bits of silver scrolls and scarabs were sewn into the hems of my garments by my mother's quick and tireless fingers. Her great beauty was eclipsed only by her great knowledge. Her name was Nisa, and I thought it was the most beautiful word in any language. The word itself was like the rising of the fountain, the rhythm of rain.
At twilight, when the air in Alexandria grew softly blue, she instructed me in our garden, teaching me Hebrew and Aramaic and Greek, forming the letters in the dirt with a few thrusts of the pointed edge of a stick. No one saw what we did during these lessons, for we did not dwell among the townspeople but in the house of holy women who were available for the priests. In this way we were blessed as well, for the laws that applied to other women did not apply to my mother. Prayers were not forbidden to her, nor was an education, nor was the freedom to allow men into her private chamber.
The entranceway to our house was lined with lanky hedges of jasmine and fragrant rose trees. In the evening the city itself seemed to turn blue, as it casting our world underwater. Long shadows spread out upon the terra-cotta bricks of our pathway, so no one could make out who entered our door and who left in the middle of the dusky, fragrant night. These shadows served me as well, for I was as solitary as I was self-reliant. The only witnesses to my instruction and my education were the inchworms and beetles. Even as a very small child, I understood that women had secrets, and that some of these were only to be told to daughters. In this way we were bound together for eternity.
A $1 donation allows you to buy any of Alice Hoffman's books today at 40% off. For a donation of $5, $25, or $100, you’ll get 40% off all books purchased in the next week. For $250, we’ll send you a copy of The Dovekeepers and Practical Magic, and a Red Room Author a little less busy than Alice will take you to lunch. (Onerous restrictions apply.)
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–The Red Room Team