Above the title of the book you can read four words: mystery, romance, Netanya, Salonika. At least two of these are misleading. I found no mystery in the book. One story line deals with the kidnapping of a three year old girl from her dysfunctional mother in 2006. There we have a straightforward detective story with a predictable end, intertwined with fledgling romance. The other thread follows a Greek Jew who survived the Shoah and is looking for her daughter in 1945 in the hope that she might have survived too. Again, there is a search involved, but there is no mystery there either. Based on the names and how the story was written it was very easy to guess correctly whether she would be found or not. The connection between the two stories were just as far from being a mystery for a careful reader.
The other word that made little sense to me was Netanya. The thread set in contemporary Israel takes place all over the country, not just in Netanya; I wouldn’t even say it focused on that town. The Greek thread is set in Saloniki, or at least that’s the city the protagonist in that story is from. But his search takes him to several locations. Thus two emphasized words are not accurate, but I can see that it helps to set expectation for the casual reader.
I enjoyed two aspects of the book more than others: the description of an observant, feminist woman who had a full time job usually associated with men (detective) and the information on the historical background of Greek Jewry. The first of these two helped me to cover the gap I sometimes imagine exist between patriarchal religion and women’s liberation. The second filled some of the gaps in my knowledge about the topic, although it left plenty of opportunities to study this era and location more. But it provided a good start.
The beauty of Estelle Chasen‘s “Ribbons For Their Hair” lies the simple language the simple story is told. It is a quick read that you get a lot out of, even if you, like me, are not particularly a big fan of mystery or romance novels.