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The Fruit of Her Hands: The Story of Shira of Ashkenaz

3.99  ·  Rating Details ·  223 Ratings  ·  47 Reviews
Based on the life of the author’s thirteenth-century ancestor, Meir ben Baruch of Rothenberg, a renowned Jewish scholar of medieval Europe, this is the richly dramatic fictional story of Rabbi Meir’s wife, Shira, a devout but rebellious woman who preserves her religious traditions as she and her family witness the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe.

Raised by her widowed rabbi
Hardcover, 448 pages
Published September 8th 2009 by Gallery Books (first published 2009)
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Aug 25, 2014 Shomeret rated it it was amazing

Why did I decide to read this book? It's about a medieval woman who studied Talmud and married a very prominent Rabbi. I have read Maggie Anton's books about Rav Hisda's daughter, and I'm interested in reading about other Jewish women who were scholars. Unlike Rav Hisda's daughter, who is mentioned in the Talmud, the protagonist of this novel is fictional.

The description of this book says that the protagonist, Shira, was rebellious. Shira's father, a Rabbi in Falaise, France, had allowed Shira t
Sep 30, 2009 Lauren rated it really liked it
I have encountered few novels that deal wholly with Jewish life in the Middle Ages. Thus, I was delighted to discover this novel, as it combines several areas of interest for me - Jewish history, the middle ages, and more generally, medieval Jewish culture. Because of this dearth of similar novels (I haven't seen too many others set at this time, other than the Rashi's daughters series) I think the book tries to do too much - tell the story of one man and his wife as well as the story of the ent ...more
Cameron retells the story of her ancestor with the fictional character of Shira - daughter of a rabbi in 13C France she is eventually wed to esteemed scholar Meir ben Baruch and they settle in Paris. The persecutions of the Jews reach new heights and Meier is among those who defend the Talmud but to no avail. They leave France to start a new life in Germany which is happy and successful at first, although the persecutions of the Jews in Europe continue to increase.

That's pretty much the basic p
This was an entirely wonderful story.

I added this to my ever growing list of books to read during a time when I was becoming very interested in the history of the Jewish people. I have read a few books since that time that expanded my knowledge of the political ramifications and general attitudes of the Christian world to them. This story gave me a wholly different view. It was a personal story and told one woman's story of her struggles with her own community and with the surrounding Christian
Marie Z. Johansen
Sep 27, 2009 Marie Z. Johansen rated it really liked it
Studying my own ancestral lines gave me an appreciation of the pleasure that knowing where you came from can bring. I totally understand how amazing the story of Rabbi Meir ben Baruch is and how fascinated Ms. Cameron must have been when she discovered that he was her ancestor. An amazing amount of research went into the writing of this book!

The central character in this book is names 'Shira' and the story of her life offers us a clear portrait what it must have been like to have been Jewish in
I didn't enjoy this novel as much as the Rashi's daughters' series, despite the fact that I think it was somewhat better written. The writing is very lyrical, but the plot doesn't seem to really go anywhere. Some of the rituals seem a bit anachronistic as well -- meant to appeal to us in our present time, but I'm not convinced completely as they were done in time of the characters.
Laurel Corona
Jun 19, 2011 Laurel Corona rated it it was amazing
This book is a must read for anyone interested in medieval Jewish life. I hope to read more by Michelle Cameron.
Sep 22, 2009 Cheryl rated it really liked it
Shira grew up a rabbi’s daughter. Shira’s mother died when she was about five years old. Since than her father and nursemaid, Jeanne, a Christian have raised her. At an early age, Shira was very interested in books and learning. While it was not usually a woman’s place to learn in the schools as the boys, Shira’s father could not deny her in his class room. Shira grows into a lovely, educated young lady.

One day, Shira’s father introduces her to a group of new students. Two of those young men ar
Sep 19, 2009 Sandie rated it really liked it
For readers craving great historical fiction, or a realistic romance novel, or a book about religion’s place in history, THE FRUIT OF HER HANDS will more than satisfy your appetite. This wonderful saga puts into perspective not only the religious struggles faced by the Jewish community of 13th century Ashkenaz, a region of Europe that encompassed portions of France and Germany, but the traditions, values and rituals practiced in their every day lives.

Author, Michelle Cameron has skillfully blen
Mar 15, 2010 jordan rated it it was amazing
Historical fiction is always a delicate dance between accuracy and steps off that path taken to weave a successful novel; Michelle Cameron moves deftly in "The Fruit of Her Hand: The Story of Shiraz of Ashkenaz." The narrator Shiraz, a creation of Cameron's imagination, is the daughter of a prominent rabbi in 13th century France. Intelligent, opinionated, and passionate, through her eyes we see the pivotal events of her Jewish Community as they struggle against persecution and violence.

While Shi
I'm having a remarkably hard time gathering up my thoughts to review THE FRUIT OF HER HANDS. The book is a mixed bag as far as I'm concerned.

Overall, the book was informative and easy entertainment, but it lacked depth. For the most part the characters were either good or bad, with no shades of grey, which made them unrealistic and led to my feeling of detachment. Shira was a sympathetic and capable main character during the first third of the book and looked to be an interesting Medieval wife.
Sep 04, 2009 Harvee rated it really liked it
From the Author's Note:
" I don't remember the first time my mother told me I was descended from a famous rabbi who lived in Europe in the 1200s....I stumbled upon a reference to Rabbi Meir ben Baruch of Rothenbert, the Maharam....

I had never known that in 1242 an apostate Jew named Nicholas Donin, having been excommunicated by the chief rabbi of Paris, convinced the Pope and French royals to burn every copy of the Talmud in a Paris market square. My ancestor, Rabbi Meir ben Baruch, was among th
Other than Rashi's Daughters, I haven't come across much Jewish fiction set in the the middle ages, let alone one with a female protagonist, so I was excited to read The Fruit of Her Hands. Cameron makes her ancestor Rabbi Meir ben Baruch accessible through the fictionalized life of his wife, Shira, herself a formidable scholar.

It was difficult to see Shira's talent stifled under the need to support the yeshiva through endless drudgery and housework. Since Shira's knowledge and intelligence are
Oct 07, 2009 Shannon rated it really liked it
This book was a total chance read---I walked by it set out at the library and gave it a try. It was definately worth the read. It tells the fictional story of the wife of one of Europe's most respected Rabbis in the 1200's. It starts when she is about 9 and continues until the end of her life. It spends a lot of time focusing on the horrible treatment of Jews during this time period, and showing how it affected Shira's life and that of her family. The life inside the Rabbinical school that her f ...more
May 24, 2010 Julie rated it liked it
Shelves: own, vine, fiction
The title of this novel is misleading. While it is told from the perspective of Shira, it is really about her husband Meir ben Barucha, Cameron’s ancestor. Meir was a Talmudic rabbi during the 13th century and, as Cameron states in her Author’s note, she uses the fictional Shira as a vehicle to tell Meir’s story. It was a good premise, accurately reflecting the period and the history of Jews in Europe, including Talmud burnings and pogroms. However, I felt that the same story could have been tol ...more
Aug 19, 2016 Annette rated it really liked it
The title of this book is misleading as Shira of Ashkenaz is a fictional character. However, she tells the story of a famous Rabbi Meir ben Baruch of 13th century, “who spent his youth traveling the area of Europe known as Ashkenaz (France/Germany). He settled in Rothenberg, founded a Jewish seminary, and became known throughout Europe for the wisdom of his responsa, letters written in response to Talmudic questions.”

Shira is a daughter of a rabbi, smart and eager to learn the Talmud, Jewish wri
Nov 05, 2011 Rachel rated it liked it
This work of historical fiction presents a fascinating peek into Jewish life in 13th century Europe. Many aspects of the story are excellent: Michelle Cameron creates characters you care about and cleverly finds ways for her heroine to experience life -- and unique varieties of anti-Semitism -- in three different countries (France, England and Germany), which broadens the scope of the narrative. Her descriptions of yeshiva life, of prayer and ritual practice of the day and of non-Jews' attitudes ...more
Sep 08, 2009 Bridget rated it it was amazing
Shira is your average happy go lucky child whose passion for learning is beyond the norm. Her father is a rabbi who is imprisoned for suspected heresy. Shira's life is turned upside down by this tragic event. With the help of a man that Shira will eventually call her husband, they fight for her father and what they believe is right.

Meir and Shira live a wonderful life and end up having a daughter of their own. Shira struggles with maintaining her religious beliefs and following her heart. Will t
Mar 06, 2014 Michelle rated it really liked it
(3.5 stars) This is a historical fiction novel telling about the life and times of Meir ben Baruch, a thirteenth century Jewish rabbi and scholar, from the perspective of his wife, Shira. We see Shira’s childhood, where she is raised by her father, a widowed rabbi, which gives her access to an unusual education for a girl. She encounters two young men in her youth that will affect the course of her life; one will become a foe to the Jewish faith and traditions and one who works to uphold and upl ...more
Oct 26, 2011 Gaile rated it it was amazing
The author's ancestor, the husband of Shira is real enough. Shira herself has been largely imagined. It is the 13th century and as Shira goes through her childhood, young womanhood, marries, has children and then grandchildren, the Jews become persecuted. Being Jewish with a rabbi for a husband, Shira's first experience of religious persecution comes when her father is arrested. At this time she realizes
Meir ben Baruch is the man for her.
I found the last chapters of this book very difficult to
Jul 18, 2016 Tfp rated it it was amazing
Although Shira is fictional, the setting is not. The shocking revelation of Jewish persecution throughout Europe in the 13th century does not deviate too much from the Nazis' treatment of Jews. Jews in France and England had to wear an external emblem to identify themselves. The Nazis did the same. Rumors that Jews sacrificed children to appease their God was sufficient enough to execute dozens of Jewish men for the unsolved murder of a Christian boy. As the reader immerses him or herself into t ...more
Lesley Carol Prince
Apr 16, 2013 Lesley Carol Prince rated it really liked it
Intriguing book with its background of 13th century history, and yeshiva and family life amid the horrors of anti-Semitism. The fictional Shira is a strong protagonist who sometimes overpowers the personality of her scholar husband, Meir ben Baruch of Rothenburg.

Admittedly,the latter comment is that of a 21st century feminist. Shira, "beshert' of Meir, was an exemplary helpmate. The role Shira fulfilled was entirely consistent with the mores and culture of the times.

Cameron writes well and suc
Sep 07, 2013 Laura rated it really liked it
I had the good fortune of meeting this writer 2 years ago and am sorry that it took me this long to read this wonderful book. I have always been interested in stories of strong women at all points in time. And, even though I am not Jewish, I found the discussion of the rituals and beliefs of these characters to be interesting and enlightening. It saddens me to think that our human history includes so much fear and distrust of others who appear or believe differently than ourselves. Well written ...more
Oct 05, 2009 Mindy rated it really liked it
I am ashamed to say that this book illuminated how little I know about my Jewish history. Of course I am well aware of the Crusades and the Holocaust but I had no idea about the persecution of the Jews not only in Europe but in England in the 1200's. I couldn't put this book down and I learned a lot from it but I have to say that there was no happy ending. I know now that I have much to learn about the history of my people.
Apr 16, 2011 Susie rated it really liked it
This was a thoroughly readable, flowing, engaging story of the author's imagined wife of Meir ben Baruch, a real life famous Talmudic Jewish scholar who lived in Europe in the 1200s. Shira is honorable, likeable, intelligent, and fiery for learning, which was not common for women of the day. The story covers her imagined life from young childhood to old age, and the increasing anti-Semitism that she, her family and community must face as the years go by.
Sep 10, 2010 Debby rated it it was amazing
A wonderful view back in time to Jewish life in medieval Europe. I read this book during the High Holy Days. I think the timing made it even more penetrating. With the recent turmoil over book-burning which I abhor, the scenes of ignorance mixed with evil resulting in the mass burning of Jewish holy books so painfully described through tears of anguish reminds us all how evil begets evil. This book is a must read for Jew and non Jew alike.
Christy English
Oct 24, 2011 Christy English rated it it was amazing
I am very slow with this novel, but that is because it is so beautiful. I am savoring it. In the midst of my frantic schedule, this lovely novel is an oasis.

My own work has been consuming me for the last few months, but in the last day I have been able to dive into this book again, and I found myself devouring it. I loved the story of Shira...

Aug 16, 2010 Anne rated it really liked it
The author crafted this story of Jewish life in 13th-century Europe after researching a Jewish scholar who was her ancestor. The book focuses on the scholar's wife, a strong female character who would love the scholarly life reserved for males in Jewish culture but who still embraces the Jewish female role. Interesting book during a year of studying the Old Testament.

joy *the clean-reader extraordinaire*
fascinating view into medieval Jewish life, plus simply a nice smooth read. i recommend it only to adults, however, as there is a figuratively open door to the couple's bedroom on their wedding night, as it were. also, the persecution of Jews in medieval Europe is a primary theme of the book. it's eye-opening without being too graphic, though.
Oct 22, 2009 Satia rated it liked it
I'm not a fan of historical romances and there were times I found this book typically tedious. But this book was more than the usual bodice ripper and contained some interesting moments. A good escapist read. For more:
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Michelle Cameron's The Fruit of Her Hands, an historical novel set in medieval France and Germany, relating the life of Michelle's ancestor, Rabbi Meir ben Baruch of Rothenberg, the Maharam, was published by Pocket Books (a division of Simon & Schuster). Publication in September 2009.

Publisher’s Weekly praised the novel’s “powerful immediacy” and Library Journal its “rich details.” RT Book Re
More about Michelle Cameron...

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