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11.26.2006 

The Ghost of Hannah Mendes

Author: Naomi Ragen
Year: 1998
Pages: 384
Rating: 76/100
Amazon: The Ghost of Hannah Mendes

The Ghost Of Hannah Mendes is two stories weaved together into one supposedly romantic, historical and ancestral tale. The present day story is of a dying grandmother desperately trying to pass along all that is locked within her lineage to her self-centered grand daughters. Abuela convinces her dissatisfied with life grand daughters to embark on a far-fetched adventure to find the remains of a family manuscript that dates back to the Spanish Inquisition. Having to abort due to decline health, The girls end up on their own and get much more than they bargained for by finding love, ghostly spirits and an enlightened understanding of their heritage in their Indiana Jonesian quest through Europe.

The actually manuscript is the other story and is intertwined throughout the novel. This is the fictional story of Hannah Mendes an “indomitable Renaissance business women” who lived in the 1400’s and overcame the Inquisition to become an influential woman of wealth and power.

The juxtaposition of the two stories aims to provide greater meaning and context to each one individually.

Litty's Take

My mom gave me the strong recommendation on this one. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to relate and enjoy the novel as much as she did. Perhaps it had to do with the dominance of female characters, or maybe it is just that the idea of heritage resonates more with mothers and fathers who are constantly passing it down.

I skipped reading the sections of the book that were the transcripts of Hannah Mendes. It was hard enough trying to follow along with the misadventures of two girls who weren’t all that interesting. In hindsight, I would probably have been better off just reading the transcripts and not following the modern day saga.

Naomi Ragen does a commendable job of developing themes of Jewish heritage and family in all of her books. Her main characters are often female and she has no qualms about stooping down to garner interest through romance and inconsequential drama. I would consider reading another one of her books if the plot was a bit more relevant to me.

I would love to get my mom to chime in with her review and hear why she so thoroughly enjoyed the novel.

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