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By Light of Hidden Candles    by Daniella Levy order for
By Light of Hidden Candles
by Daniella Levy
Order:  USA  Can
Kasva Press, 2017 (2017)
Softcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Barbara Lingens

Two young people of different beliefs at two different points in history. In the time of the Spanish Inquisition, Miriam and her father are Jews, hounded by the authorities and saved by a well-to-do Catholic family. In our time, Manuel, a Catholic, and Alma, a Jew, are trying to fill in the blanks of their heritage by traveling to Spain to study the historical records there. For Alma, the search is especially emotional, because she must return a keepsake that goes back twenty-four generations.

The plight of the Conversos in the late 1400s is an important part of this account. Jewish people who wished to live relatively unsupervised had to hide their belief and pretend to be Catholic. Those who did so were called Conversos. Nevertheless, these people kept on being investigated for their ties to the Jewish community, and eventually the Jews of Spain were expelled. In their visits to various parts of Spain, Manuel and Alma keep running into echoes of that terrible time, and it causes them to stop and think how these facts affect them today.

As Alma and Manuel search through dusty archives to reach both dead ends and lucky breaks, they must confront their growing feelings for each other and what this means in terms of their faith. Manuel, who once entertained thoughts of a priestly life, has always been fascinated by the Jewish religion, and through Alma's contacts, gets to learn more about it. His theological discussions with a Spanish rabbi give him (and us) much to think about. What does it mean to marry outside your faith? How important is your faith to you? More important than the one you love?

This beautiful story has much to offer. The Jewish religion is very wonderfully described and defended. Missing is a more complete discussion and defense of the Catholic faith, but perhaps that is for another story. In some ways the story ends too neatly. Nevertheless, author Daniella Levy has done an admirable job in bringing important issues to life, and Alma's and Manuel's efforts to understand what their faith really is and what it means to them provide a powerful check to the sometimes simplistic way we moderns tend to approach these kinds of issues.

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