By: Betsy L. Ross
Publisher: Atmosphere Press
Publication Date: February 21, 2023
Reviewed by Diane Lunsford
Review Date: December 30, 2022
Filmmaker, poet, book reviewer, and retired attorney Betsy L. Ross adds to her cache of talent with the delivery of her novel, The Bones of the World. She takes her audience on a spiritual journey as told through the voices and souls of her memorable characters.
The story begins with Rachel. She is hiding from the Righteous, a group of militants determined to wipe out the existence of the Jewish population. Her husband Henry has taken her to a safe place; a mansion located next to an enchanted cemetery. This is where Rachel will begin her journey down her spiritual path of uncovering a familial history of pain and suffering and most importantly, the truth. The mansion is owned by sisters Eloise and Inés who have the powers to speak with the dead. Inés has experienced the voices and interacted with the Jewish children murdered long ago by the Righteous. The children wait patiently in the cemetery for their turn to tell Inés their painful tales. It is time for Rachel to hear these horrific accounts as a means to awaken her to her own Jewish heritage.
During the many situations Rachel encounters in her dreams, Rachel meets Sariah. She is a young woman who had two strikes against her. The Inquisition had labeled her not only as a Jew, but a lesbian. In tandem with meeting Sariah, Rachel is introduced to Jakob, a young boy who throughout the Holocaust, spent his youth hidden in a farmhouse where his thoughts were consumed by hours and days of plotting his revenge. Rachel navigates between consciousness and dreams as she mentally tries to sort out what is real and what is a dream. She is terrified for her son David and while she refuses to acknowledge it, the fact is, he is dead. David’s demise happened at a time known as the ‘Night of the Ascent.’ How does her husband Henry fit into this confusing puzzle and why is her mother’s friend Maura a vital key to answering this particular question for Rachel?
I applaud Betsy L. Ross for embarking on her journey of writing a faceted novel that addresses the history of the Holocaust. She sets the tone on the first page with the introduction of character Rachel and how she may appear as a woman and wife of privilege, yet her deeper sense of being is she is a Jewish woman. Ross’ adept driving of her pen makes it clear she has deeper plans in store for her character. Ross layers her tale with precise scenery that lends way to credible dialogue: "...She can’t remember exactly when the room had begun speaking to her. Not in words exactly, but in patterns she found in niches and corners. Three cracks in the plaster of the ceiling above her bed. Some nights, as she lay observing them, they were the branches of a tree; one night, a laurel, and she imagined herself Daphne, metamorphosing just in time to elude Apollo’s lustful advances..." Ross is cautious with her word use in that she doesn’t pen a prolific rant of loathing in listing all that was clearly catastrophic and devastating when one selects the Holocaust as his/her backdrop to the novel. Rather, she is kind and gentle and open-minded, but forceful just the same in anchoring the point that this is a time in history that should have never occurred. Ross adopts a back-and-forth style from chapter to chapter among her characters and plants enough of a seed at the end of each to tie the sum of all together as she approaches the end of her tale. Bravo Ms. Ross. I am a fan and look forward to reading your next body of work.
Quill says: The Bones of the World is a prolific account of why we must ‘never forget’ what history encourages us to learn.
For more information on The Bones of the World, please visit the author's website at: www.betsylross.com/