Saturday, January 31, 2015

The Salt Covenants by Sylvia Bambola

Back Cover Blurb:
Bambola (Rebekah’s Treasure) elevates a simple historical tale into something transcendent, in this beautifully written novel about a young Jewish noblewoman, Isabel, who flees the Inquisition on Christopher Columbus’s second voyage to the New World.” Publishers Weekly starred review

“But these plans they have laid out for me like an embroidered rug, showing me where my feet must travel, is to me an awful penance for sins I did not commit.” Isabel

Spain 1493: Isabel has broken her mother’s heart by becoming a sincere convert to Christianity. But when she is noticed by Friar Alonso at La Casa Santa, the Holy House, she is forced to flee the Inquisition by entering into a loveless marriage and sailing with Christopher Columbus on his second voyage to the New World. But all too soon Isabel is forced to struggle alone in her new life and new faith. With all the risks and hardships how is she to survive? And will she ever find love in this strange land? And what of the dangerous Enrique Vivar? Will his hidden agenda cost her her life?

Read an Excerpt:

Seville, Spain 1493

I have broken Mama’s heart. That thought has festered a fortnight. Our physician, Hernando Diaz, would call it a lingering agitation, the kind that upsets the bodily humors. He is full of such vague assertions. I am not as vague. I picture sores, like the ones on Catalina’s legs, marring the fabric of my brain and robbing it of peace.

The soft shuffle of Mama’s feet pulls me from my thoughts, and I turn from the cupboard. Please . . . look at me. But she does not. Her eyes have not met mine in weeks. And the silence between us is as thick as the Pillars of Hercules. It is strange, this silence, so foreign to us who once discussed the writings of Maimonides and Rashi for endless hours. I have the power to repair this breach but I will not. Even now that knowledge overwhelms me, and I wonder at the wisdom of my confession. I have learned too late that confessions are not always the satisfying exercise one anticipates, unless they are made to God.

“I have checked the larder for mold, and bunched the sage.” I wait for Mama’s response, but she just raises her knife in the air. The metal glints as it catches the light coming through the small overhead windows. In one swift motion she drags the blade across the edge of her thumb nail. A sliver, like an almond chip, flies across the room and disappears. My heart flies with it, for I know she is testing to see that the knife conforms to halakah, to Jewish law.

Oh Mama.

A rivulet of sweat works its way down her cheek, then her chin, then follows along the hollow of her neck, and ends at the large emerald hanging below her throat. Grandpapa’s gift. She has not worn it in months. Many claim emeralds bring success. Does she wear it now hoping to successfully turn me from my course, from the course I have foolishly revealed to her?

My stomach churns as I remove the ring of keys pinned to my bodice. The keys are a trust, an honor bestowed, for they secure all that is valuable in our home. It is a privilege reserved for the woman of the house or a trusted steward. I am neither, though Papa says I am better than any steward he has known. And Mama says my skills and good sense have earned me the honor.

But that was before Eastertide.

I unlock the spice cabinet; then take out a cone of sugar, all the while keeping Mama in my line of vision. She is busy stoking the embers beneath a large clay pot. Already the aroma of galingale and grains of paradise fills the room. Because she uses the large pot and not the one hanging from the tooth iron rack, I know there will be guests at our table tomorrow, and I am encouraged. Perhaps they will bring laughter into our sad home.

But my feelings of hope plummet when I notice the large leg of lamb sitting on the woodblock. Mama will certainly purge it to make it ritually clean. I watch her slice the lamb lengthwise, remove the vein, then begin to remove the fat. The back of my neck is a tangle of nerves as I glance around to see if anyone is watching. A foolish gesture. It is, after all, Friday, and as usual all our servants have been sent to the groves.

I squeeze the sugar tighter as Mama works. I must not speak. But even before the thought becomes vapor, I blurt, “Inesita Garcia was burned at the stake for purging her meat like that. You must stop this. Eventually someone will see. Eventually someone will tell.”

Mama looks up and finally meets my gaze. Her eyes are as blue as the rivers of Galicia, testifying that Ashkenazi blood intermingles with the Sephardic. Surprisingly, there is no anger in them, only shame for what I know she considers a cowardly remark. But I cannot stop now. I have opened this wound, and that took as much courage as Mama opening the lamb, though I doubt she would see it that way.

“We must be careful, now that Catalina has been discharged.”

Mama blows the tendril of hair that has escaped her netted halo-like headdress, and I notice, with surprise, how gray she has become. “Am I a child that you need to caution me? Do I not always send the servants away and prepare the Sabbath meal myself?”

“More than one person has been called to the Holy House because of the testimony of a vindictive servant.” “She had to be discharged. This is a respectable home. The scabs alone condemn her.”

I carry the sugar to the table where the mortar and pestle sit. A month ago I overheard our physician call Catalina’s scabs, las buas. These days las buas is as common as cankers, and I am old enough to understand how they are passed between a man and a woman when the oil lamps go out.

I also understand Mama’s objection. Catalina is not married.

“I do not question your action. I only remind you of its danger.”

“Danger?” Mama stops working the meat. Her long linen apron, newly made from the quarterly allocation of household fabric, is still unstained. In it she looks like a large sail blowing out over the deck of her kitchen. “Danger?” she repeats. “When you have been through as many pogroms as I, then speak to me of danger. Besides, what has changed? Why are you so worried now?”

Buy the book here:
Amazon Print

About Sylvia:
Sylvia Bambola was born in Romania but lived her early years in Germany, a Germany still reeling from the devastation of World War II.   At age seven she relocated with her adopted military family, and saw the Statue of Liberty and America for the first time.  But the memory of those years in Germany lingered and was the inspiration behind her second novel, Refiner’s Fire, which won a Silver Angel Award, and was a Christy Finalist.

Life as an “army brat” gave her the opportunity to live in several states, including Hawaii. Then came nursing school in New York after which she married and began a family. Raising two children and being the wife of a business executive made for an active life.  So did working in marketing for a telecommunications company, then a medical software company.

Bambola is the author of seven published novels and currently calls sunny Florida, home.  She has two grown children; has been a guest speaker at Women’s Aglow and various church functions; is a Bible study teacher at her church; and is learning to play the guitar. You can read more about her and her books at

Connect with Sylvia here:

SYLVIA is giving away a copy of THE SALT COVENANT. The giveaway is only available to U.S. addresses. To be entered in the book giveaway, leave a comment along with your email address. You can enter the book giveaway twice--once on each spotlight post.

Happy Reading!
Caroline Brown


Anonymous said...

This sounds like an interesting read! Can't say I have heard of a plot like this one. Thanks for the spotlight!
sylvesternator at yahoo dot com

Caryl Kane said...

I enjoyed reading about Sylvia. How wonderful that she has been a guest speaker at Women's Aglow!

I would love to read THE SALT COVENANTS. :)


Sylvia Bambola said...

Laura Pol, I'm glad you find the plot interesting. Good luck in the drawing!

Sylvia Bambola said...

Caryl Kane, I was part of Women's Aglow for several years and LOVED it. It proved such a great way to share the gospel in a wonderful non-threatening environment. After I left the organization, I was blessed to be asked to speak at a few of their functions. A real privilege!

Deanna Stevens said...

this is so interesting, nice to meet you today!
dkstevensneAToutlookDoTCo M
Dee from NE

Sylvia Bambola said...

Deanna Stevens, thanks for checking out the interview. Best wishes in the drawing.

Janet K Brown said...

This sounds like a interesting concept. Would take a lot of research. I would love to read the book. JanetDOThopeATattDOTnet

Sylvia Bambola said...

Janet, it DID take a ton of research. Actually the research took almost as much time as did the writing. But I wanted to get it right and do justice to the theme. Thank you for your interest. :)

cjajsmommy said...

I would love to win a copy of this book. cjajsmommy [at] gmail [ dot] com

Deb R.

Boos Mum said...

This sounds like a very interesting read and a subject not many people write about. Please enter me.

sweetdarknectar at gmail dot com

Patty said...

Not sure if I've ever read anything set this far back in history! Sounds interesting.


Anonymous said...

This sounds like a different but very interesting book, I would love to have a chance to read it.
Deanne Cnnamongirl(at)aol(dot)com

  © Blogger template Simple n' Sweet by 2009 Design expanded and personalized by 2011.

Back to TOP