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Holy Lands

3.80  ·  Rating details ·  695 ratings  ·  146 reviews
A witty, heartwarming, and heart-wrenching epistolary novel, soon to be a major motion picture starring James Caan, Rosanna Arquette, and Jonathan Rhys Meyers, about a dysfunctional family--led by a Jewish pig farmer in Israel--struggling to love and accept each other.

As comic as it is deeply moving, Holy Lands chronicles several months in the lives of an estranged family
Hardcover, 161 pages
Published January 22nd 2019 by Bloomsbury Publishing (first published May 5th 2010)
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Average rating 3.80  · 
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 ·  695 ratings  ·  146 reviews

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My silences, made the sound of love....
Every once in a while a book comes by which is just exceptional, this is one of them for me.
A deeply moving and emotional book with a lot of humor.... Written with a big loving feeling for this dysfunctional family. Exquisite. The book consists of letters between the family members, father, mother, son en daughter. Harry Rosenmerck is an aging Jewish cardiologist who has left his medical practice in New York, to raise pigs in Israel (yes, only the idea of
Elyse (retired from reviewing/semi hiatus) Walters
Why wouldn’t every reader give this little gem 5 stars? I seriously do not understand!!!!! I cared about this family! My god.....this little book is passionate - stirring deep-rooted emotions inside us.

I REFUSED TO TALK ABOUT THE ‘style’ of the writing - other than to say: IT WORKS!!!!! It’s brilliant for this story. To spend time analyzing it, is a waste of time.


Jul 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is one sacred read. A dysfunctional family whom exchange letters and emails to each other. It’s a satirical story that centres around Harry, the cardiologist and father, who has left his practice to start a pig farm in Israel. He refuses to talk with his gay son who is becoming a successful play director; he leaves behind his dying wife as well as a daughter who is suffering from a broken heart; let’s not forget the relationship with the Rabbi.
A tender story of love, friendship, family and

You can bet I'm on my pogo stick after finishing this gem! Who can resist an Israeli pig farmer, just tell me that! And a dysfunctional family griping, arguing, and pouring their hearts out by letter? I’m all in.

From page 1, I was riveted; I could not put this book down. First, I’m a sucker for letters. They tell you so much about the sender and they seem so personal. Plus there’s the snoop factor—you have to admit it’s fun to peek into someone else’s mail without getting in trouble or
Have you ever received a truly exceptional letter?

A letter that was so well-written or poignant you were startled by it, or it gave you great pause?

Chances are, the older you are, the more likely you are to have at least one such letter in your possession. People did, once upon a time, write long, detailed letters, but letter writing seems to be a dying art now, and once emails and texts entered our lives, our ability to communicate degraded almost overnight to: Wuz up?!

I have received many
Diane S ☔
Jan 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
"Life isn't the straight line we imagine a children;
It makes loops. We never love by chance. Even if
we talk about mistakes, even if we ask how and
why, deep down we know why."

A fractured family, a very dysfunctional one, one that has little clue in how to relate to each other.
Divorced, Harry, moves to Isresl to become a pig farmer (notice the dancing pigs on the cover), Monique, the mother has serious health issues, David, a rather successful playwright, is gay, something his father just can't
Mar 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019-reads
Thank you Elyse for recommending this book to me!

I loved this epistolary novel about a dysfunctional Jewish family who has difficulty connecting and communicating. I easily read this cover to cover in one sitting. The movie rights have been sold and the cast chosen.

The cast of characters:
-Harry, the patriarch of the family, a cardiologist, moves to Israel to become a pig farmer (the dancing pig cover!)
-Monique, Harry’s ex-wife, who has a serious health issue
-David, the son, a successful gay
Feb 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Well, my goodness... I loved this book!
This is a Jewish family of four.. a grown son and daughter..parents have been divorced for many years.. quite dysfunctional.. the father, a retired doctor moves to Israel from the States, to become a pig farmer.
This short novel is written completely in a series of letters to each other, very moving but still many laughs throughout
Highly recommended!
May 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: best-of-2019
Touching and funny epistolary novel covering nine months in the lives of an endearingly dysfunctional Jewish family. It’s a short novel but the letters they write each other, as well as to a few others outside the family, fully flesh out their personalities and family dynamics.

I enjoyed everyone and all of their letters and perspectives, but can I just give a special shout-out to the letters between the father Harry Rosenmerck and Rabbi Moshe Cattan? Their relationship and how it evolved warmed
Mar 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Oy, write to your Mother!

Tolstoy wrote “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.’ And this family takes the cake or I should say, the knish.

An epistolary that can be read in one sitting, but one that will sit with your heart for far longer. The chasm between these eccentric family members is larger than the Wailing Wall, there is so much heartache and longing that at times it was hard to read the pithy remarks masking the hidden hurts.

It’s remarkable how
Dec 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
Totally odd, but fun and poignant at the same time. In a series of letters and emails, we learn about the trials and tribulations of four family members, who are at odds yet deeply connected to each other. Harry is a former cardiologist living in Israel trying running a pig farm, to great consternation by a local rabbi and others. Monique is his French ex-wife. David is their gay son, who is a successful playwright and estranged from his father. And Annabelle is their daughter, who seems to be ...more
A bittersweet epistolary novel about a Jewish family whose father, Harry Rosenmerck, has left his home and his position as a cardiologist in New York to become a pig breeder in Israel. He leaves behind his ex-wife, Monique, his daughter Annabelle, and his son David, who is a successful playwright, and gay – with which Harry still seems to struggle. David keeps trying to share his life, as if to say I’m still your son, your little boy grown. He relays a story of asking his mother what a ...more
Sep 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
[4+] This slim, well paced novel left me breathless and teary. Poignant and funny - so much family dysfunction is packed into 161 pages! Sthers choreographs it all so well, I could imagine this novel on stage.
Diane Barnes
Feb 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
First, let me say thank you to both Debbie and Betsy, whose glowing reviews led me to hunt down a copy of a book I'd never heard of. They were both right about the humor and the message. I needed an "interim read" before heading into a longer book, and this fit the bill. I'm also a fan of epistilary novels because so much is revealed between the lines.

An interim read with depth. I got religious and political views from many of the letters that were presented with both humor and cynicism, but
Kelly (and the Book Boar)
Find all of my reviews at:

4.5 Stars

Harry definitely wasn’t suffering from what most people would consider a typical sort of change in lifestyle that might be expected of a wealthy Jewish New York cardiologist of a certain age . . . . .

Instead . . . .

And now????

In Israel. He’s also engaging in quite the war of words with the local Rabbi.

This certainly won’t be a book for everyone, but I’m so happy to see that some of my most treasured Goodreads’
Feb 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing

This book slayed me with its phenomenal writing and for the emotions it rung out of me. This is a book of letters, between a father (Harry), who has “escaped “ to Israel, his ex wife, Monique and their two children, David and Annabelle. There are also letters between Harry and Rabbi Moshe. This book is an exploration of a disconnected family and of faith. But for a disconnected family, there is so much love for each other- all witnessed from their words to each other.
The writing is
Apr 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
A Jewish pig farmer in Israel oh my! This book was witty, laugh out loud but often sad and serious. Harry Rosenmerck was a very successful cardiologist who decided to leave his practice and become of all things a Jew raising pigs in Israel where of course Jewish and Muslim tradition forbids the consumption of pork. What's wrong with Harry? Is he crazy, has he lost his mind?

As this epistolary novel is read, we come to know Harry, his ex wife Monique, a convert to Judaism and also a woman battling
Betsy Robinson
Jan 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Betsy by: Debbie
Oh my, my, my, this book is brilliant, funny, moving, and a gift to readers of all stripes.

Amanda Sthers has written everything there is to say about families through the letters (it’s an epistolary novel) of the members of the estranged Rosenmerck family and their cohorts. She’s written real complex characters with authentic voices of pain and humor.

If you come from a strange or estranged family, you will love this. If you come from a functional family, I somehow think you’ll love this as
Nicole Jarvis
Jul 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: bloomsbury
I read this book in one sitting! I laughed and cried, and just couldn't put it down. I don't read many epistolary novels, but this made me change my mind on the genre. I loved each member of the family, and eagerly waited to see who each letter would be to and from. Every voice was vivid and compelling.

Disclaimer: I work for the publisher, but my opinions are my own.
Donna Davis
“Does keeping the memory fresh prevent history from repeating itself? Surely not. Memories are meant to be forgotten. History is meant to be repeated. That of Jews, of women, of Arabs, of people who suffer, of Little Red Riding Hood. And the grandmother always, always has sharp teeth.”

Seldom do I make a decision to read a galley based almost entirely on the book’s cover, but really. A dancing pig in the Holy Land? How can that story not be interesting? Big thanks go to Net Galley and Bloomsbury.
Paris (parisperusing)
"Do you remember our summer vacation in Botswana? … The day before we left, we saw the Okavango River that crosses Namibia before arriving in Botswana. … People call it "the river that never finds the sea." … You were describing it to me as if I were a child, but at the same time, you were talking about me. I was the river that never finds the sea. … It can water whatever it likes. But it cuts off the cycle, and therefore life.

You see, Dad, I do love women. Like you love the lights on Christmas
Apr 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
I love a good epistolary novel and this is a great one! I was pretty much sold on the concept of a dark comedy about a Jewish pig farmer in Israel. I hoped for something Tropper-esque and was richly rewarded. Amanda Sthers is smart and funny, but more importantly, she understands people. This dysfunctional family engaged me a melted my heart.
The letters between the aforementioned pig farmer, his brilliant gay son, his searching and heartbroken daughter and his angry and vulnerable ex-wife are a
Jill Meyer
Nov 07, 2018 rated it liked it
I'm not sure what readers French author Amanda Sthers was writing for in her novel, "Holy Lands". The book, which is being made into a movie, is a curious mixture of classic family dysfunction mixed with pork, used here as a seasoning. "Holy Lands" is set in both Nazereth, Israel (which is one of the few places in Israel where pigs can be raised), New York City, and. variously, Marrakesh and Paris. The characters flit between the cities with very little intention of acting as a family. ...more
Melissa Rochelle
Sep 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
Holy Lands is outlandish, it is heartbreaking, and it is authentic. It is a wonderful read for anyone who loves family drama (think The Nest) or if you love epistolary novels (like The Divorce Papers), then don’t forget to add this short gem your to-be-read list.

The Nest by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney They May Not Mean To, But They Do by Cathleen Schine The Divorce Papers by Susan Rieger

Thanks to the publisher for the advance reading copy.
May 27, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2019, translated
A quick read, with a few good moments but overall pretty average.
Aug 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
OK, i’ll admit it. I’m behind in my reading and this is a very short book ergo…it went to the top of my TBR!

This is an epistolary novel.

Harry and Monique and Annabelle and David….a Jewish family, living their own disconnected lives. Harry (father) and David (son) are estranged because Harry cannot accept David’s homosexuality. Harry and Monique are divorced. Annabelle (daughter) has just broken off a relationship with a married man. Harry has left his medical practice in New York to become a pig
Sep 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
4.5, rounded up.

Oddly I came to this after seeing the film adaptation (both written AND directed by the author - overachiever much?), which I didn't actually think much of, but since I learned it was based on a very short epistolary novel, which I generally adore, I was intrigued. Needless to say, I found the book much, MUCH more enjoyable: brisk, funny, touching, wise - just a real pleasure to read. And she accomplishes something that is a very difficult trick in these kinds of books: each
Oct 31, 2018 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: lovers of family drama, humor, and sacrilegious pigs
Shelves: giveaways
Disclaimer: I received a free ARC of this book in a Goodreads giveaway.

This is a very interesting piece of work. Not the kind of thing I normally read, but the writing and narration sucked me in and I read the whole work in one night in a couple of hours. (Much faster than my usual reading pace.) Something about the family and the struggles just felt very real and struck a chord with me.

The book is part religious, part family drama, and part pure silliness. How much it is of each of these parts
The story itself was okay-family drama-gay son-divorced parents-dad starting up a pig farm in Israel... I just don't care for letter/diary style of writing. Maybe the author could have mixed in some paragraphs, context, description in between the emails.
Jan 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: jewish
At times comical, at other times heart-breaking, told through letters and emails, this is the story of a Jewish pig farmer in Israel. But it is more a story of a fractured family. Correspondence flows freely among Harry the farmer, his friend Rabbi Moshe who disapproves of Harry’s pigs, his adult children David and Annabelle, and his ex-wife Monique.

Through their writings we learn that Harry is getting a lot of heat over raising pigs in the Jewish homeland. David, a playwright, is struggling
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“As a cardiologist, let me assure you that there isn't the tiniest space containing love. So where the hell do we put it?” 2 likes
“I treat hearts with words. I bandage their heartaches with my own. And I make them believe that, somewhere, happy stories exist.” 1 likes
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