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397 pages, Hardcover
First published November 4, 2014
“Remember, Jayden, you’ll get your womanly jewelry tonight,” Leila said.This book is laughable. The writing is hilariously bad. The dialogue is unnatural, forced, and unintentionally hysterical. More than that, it is almost criminal in how it takes an mysterious, ancient culture...that of Ancient Babylonia...and turns it into a mockery of a joke. I have to admit, I know next to nothing about the Babylonians. I know briefly about their diplomatic ties with my beloved Ancient Egyptian culture. I've heard about king Hammurabi. I know the Ancient Babylonians made tremendous inroads into astology, science, languages, mathematics. Sure, I don't know a lot, but I know they were a fantastic, brilliant people.
“There are times, Jayden, when a woman’s emotions run higher and fuller than the waves on the Gulf of Akabah, threatening to drag her to the bottom and drown her.”
I continued dancing, trying the various steps and movements my mother had taught me over the years. The ancient dance filled me with a pleasure I’d never known before. Time seemed to stand still, and I knew that the universe was watching this moment. My moment.They get sweaty. They wear sensuous dresses (for each other, no men here, dudes). To celebrate a birth, they dance.
When the drumbeats grew louder and faster, the other women all rose to their feet to join me in the final moments of the music. I watched their hips and my own become loose and flowing, moving into rapid, frenzied shimmying.
I could have sworn my body started to glow as if light were shooting from my fingertips and each strand of hair. The throbbing shimmy spread through my hips and thighs. I trembled with the power of it as though something mysterious and unearthly was happening to me.
“Stay strong, Rebekah, and you’ll do well.” As she rubbed my mother’s neck and shoulders to ease the tension, Nalla signaled for the rest of us to begin dancing.To mourn a death, they dance.
The older girls began to roll their stomachs in undulating waves. Copying them, I realized that the rolling movement mimicked the labor contraction, the muscles squeezing to push the baby down.
I felt my own body responding to the strong, powerful undulation. My chest rolled backward then forward as my hips pushed in and out.
Closing my eyes, I pressed my legs together to form small, tight hip circles. Four to the right, and then four to the left. With each change of direction I increased the speed of the circles until my body began to warm up and loosen all the fear and grief I’d been holding in all day.THEY DANCE EVERY FUCKING MOMENT. When they're not talking about camels, that is. More on that later.
Then I brought my arms higher and clasped my hands flat together overhead. In this position, I began a series of hip thrusts, holding the rest of myself as still as possible. My mother had once shown me how to balance on my back foot while putting my front foot forward.
I practiced hip drops, bringing my hands down and holding them at my hip bone so I could experience the movement more fully. When I ended my dance with a series of final slow circles, there was a film of sweat on my forehead. Finally, I was tired—not from stress and grief, but from physical exhaustion.
“Is it selfish to want to be as beautiful as you are, Leila?”And along with the beauty comes the prerequisite clichéd fucking love triangle.
She laughed. “Jayden, you’re more beautiful than you realize. Sometimes I’m envious of you.”
It was all I could do not to fall over in shock.
My mind reeled with desire I’d never felt before, accompanied by the despair that I was betrothed to someone else. I shouldn’t be daydreaming about any other boy this way, but I only wanted him to touch me again, even as a shadow of guilt crossed my conscience.This book is laughable. You know how in desert culture, animals like camels are highly prized? I get it, I do. Life depends on the camel. One's wealth depends on the size of his herd. Camels = important. Indispensable. A status symbol.
"This decision is not my choice, Jayden. It is yours. This place"--she glanced around at the lovely rooms of the temple--"is my choice."
"Leaving you here at the Temple of Ashtoreth isn't what I want for you, Leila. Please, go back to father. It would destroy him to know you are living here worshipping the goddess. Let our grandmother take care of you. I keep thinking of our mother and her watching you and that man--"
"Stop trying to make me feel guilty!"
I bowed my head against his chest. "I've shamed myself before you." My throat was tight with love and sorrow and the exquisite nearness of him.
"He wouldn't lie, Father. And he gave me this bracelet as a promise of his love for me."
"But your dresses--you shouldn't be wearing such flimsy fabric." The girls laughed at me and I felt silly and prudish. Like I'd turned into an old grandmother when I was only sixteen.
A few minutes later, he was talking with another girl, and then another. I was humiliated to have my betrothed pay such eager attention to other girls, even if I did hate him.
Villages were dirty, noisy, and overcrowded; garbage in the streets, the rank smell of outdoor latrines poisoning the air.
...a seed of rebellion began to grow in my belly.
His mouth lingered on mine, holding me for that fraction of eternity, as though I could glimpse into the future. "One day, Jayden, you and I will be under the wedding canopy," he whispered.