The Silver Locket
By Sophia Bar-Lev
263 pages. 2015.
Available on Amazon.
Reviewed by Gloria Deutsch
The Silver Locket begins with a brutal rape, a shocking opening which immediately catches the reader's attention. From this unexpected beginning the author weaves a convoluted plot of intrigue, changed identities, reward and punishment, religious faith, guilt and redemption, set against different periods from the middle of the Second World War until the1960s.
The book is well-researched, brilliantly evoking a bygone age and describing conditions in the 1940s which the author cannot have known at first hand.
Many questions are raised about adoption, which is a recurring theme in the book, and the controversy of nature as opposed to nurture.
Although some of the characters are not Jewish – the girl who has a child as a result of the rape is ostensibly Catholic - the Jewishness of the novel permeates everything. A rabbi and his wife are important characters whose presence advances the plot on several levels.
And while the author convincingly evokes the West Coast existence of her non-Jewish protagonists, she is clearly more at home with Judaism, the philosophy, the practice and the terminology.
The message which is central to the novel is a strongly anti-abortion stance, as the author makes clear in her dedications at the front of the book.
“To the brave women who choose life. Who knows but you may give birth to the next great leader of this unpredictable world?
To all those who live because of their decision, use your life wisely;make a difference;fulfill your destiny.This is why you were born.”
Redemption is another abstract idea which the author skillfully embodies in the unfolding events. Even the villainous rapist achieves redemption by the last page.
It is no small feat to give form to such abstract notions in what is an exciting page-turner of a novel.
The novel succeeds in being a very easy and enjoyable read while at the same time exploring profound and spiritually important themes. I would certainly recommend The Silver Locket and look forward to other works from the pen- or rather the computer - of Sophia Bar-Lev.