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Book Review: The Jewel Trader Of Pegu

March 18, 2009

jeweltraderThe Jewel Trader of Pegu: A Novel written by Jeffrey Hantover
Published by Harper Collins

Jeffrey Hantover weaves an interesting tale of a Jewish man, Abraham, whose world has collapsed around him. Both his wife and son have passed away, leaving him lost in a familiar surrounding. He decides to travel from his comfortable land in Europe to the unfamiliar area of Pegu located in Burma.

Abraham’s task while in Pegu is to set up shop as a jewel trader, gain a large sum of money, and travel back with this new found fortune. Upon his arrival in Pegu, Abraham is quite closed and nearly pessimistic in how perceives what the future holds for him there. He looks at the native people and their culture as “heathens” and can’t quite grasp the Buddhist customs.

As time passes, he realizes just how accepting these “heathens” are with a man like himself, who is just as foreign to them as they are to him. He stays in a home that some see as auspicious, which instantly gains him credibility among the locals. His connections, and new found credibility, help him garner good trades which in turn will bring him and his employers alot of money.

But that’s not the only storyline here. One of the customs the locals have makes Abraham very uncomfortable, but if he does not partake in this ritual he may lose the favor of the king and make trading nearly impossible. He has no choice but to take part, and in the process finds what he is not looking for at all, love.

The book reads like a travel diary, detailing events of Abraham’s travels as they happen day to day and week to week. As time goes on though, the writing style changes, as Abraham does. The pessimism turns to optimism and the “heathens” become teachers.

“The Jewel Trader of Pegu” is a journey worth taking, and truly makes the reader feel like they are right there with Abraham feeling all he is feeling. Jeffrey Hantover’s writing is delicate in the way he tells Abraham’s tale. You feel transported to a land so many of us will never travel, yet feel afterward like you’ve truly been there and experienced all that Abraham has.

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