Legends, God and Gold: A Review of Paris Lamb by Marcia Fine

51kotAn7HgL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_My favorite part of Raiders of the Lost Ark, other than when Marion drinks the big Nepalese dude under the table, is the mystery of the ark itself.

The idea that the tablets handed down to Moses and other holy artifacts mentioned in the Torah could actually still exist in the real world always fascinated me, even if they didn’t necessarily harbor the power melt off Nazis’ faces.

Such missing links between religious doctrine and biblical archaeology is what drew me in hard about Marcia Fine’s latest novel, Paris Lamb.

The book opens with the mysterious death of a prominent archaeologist about to present information about a group of relics known as “God’s Gold”—a candelabrum, two silver trumpets and a sacrificial table taken from Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem by the Romans. They’re later discovered in the Vatican, and now the Vatican wants to liquefy the value of the objects to pay for the mounting legal fees from lawsuits against pedophilic priests, but the gold items have to be verified before they can be sold at a high-profile New Yorkauction attended by the biggest power players in the world.

With the number one authority gone, it’s up to biblical archaeologist Michael Saunders to deliver the academic goods. But are the temple artifacts authentic after all? Fine weaves a brilliant mystery involving more competitive archaeologists, snobby bluebloods and greedy Chinese nationals.

Buoying the action is Michael’s inner story: First, his romance with a gorgeous Parisian shop woman and her native City of Lights brings brings luscious texture. Also, the secret his mother revealed before her death gives context to his interest in God’s Gold itself, deepening his connection.

It’s a meticulously researched and glorious read that takes us all over the world, from the arrondissements of Paris to the Old City of Jerusalem to the bustle of Manhattan, each city shining with Fine’s rich descriptions.

450mcbee-menorahLike Spielberg’s ark, the artifacts Fine presents in fiction are based in history, by the way: The Arch of Titus shows the Romans carrying them away from Jerusalem, and there are many accounts of witnessing the presence of Jewish ritual objects and manuscripts in the Vatican, though no Pope has copped to it yet. Perhaps the friendly Pope Francis will be amenable to negotiations if any of it’s true?

In the meantime, Paris Lamb gives us a chance to wonder what might happen if such legendary objects found their way to the modern world, though—spoiler!—no one’s face melts off.

Buy or download here, and be sure to post your own review!

stacks_image_1962(Of course, most of y’all know that Marcia Fine is not only an accomplished speaker and writer, she’s also my mom. But what’s a little kvelling between friends?)

Camp Care Packages: More Baggage than Bonus?

1823lovedA couple of years back in a post called “Camp Care Packages or Parcels of Dysfunction,” I mused on the possible insane implications of overthinking a padded envelope of Mad Libs and temporary tattoos.

In the six summers my children have escaped the heat for three weeks of archery, Israeli dancing and hip-hop HaMotzi (OMG, what, where has the time gone?! Now they both now pack razors!) I’ve tried to keep the gift parcels cheap and under control.

I make them cheap and infrequent—two per session at most—and follow camp guidelines, no matter how much Yenta Girl tries to convince me that pulling out the stuffing in a teddy bear and replacing it with a Costco-sized bag of Sour Patch Kids then duct-taping it inside a tampon box is totally cool with her counselors.

I’ve resisted the parental peer pressure to up my care package game and shook my head at the wackadoodle Pintrest pins (gluing a vision board to the inside of the box? NOT GONNA DO IT.)

Last week, as we were getting the kids settled in (did I mention it was their sixth year? They basically threw their duffels out of the car while it was still moving and shouted “Bye love you OMG THERE’S SHOSHANA!!!”) I observed a whole new level of meshuggeh.

When I went to the camp office to check on their canteen balances (enough to buy them a lemonade at Tweetsie Railroad, but not so much cash that they buy out the souvenir shop) I saw several mothers hustling in giant shopping bags full of cardboard boxes and padded manila envelopes. Some had broken out a rainbow of Sharpies and were color-coding them with “Week 1” and “Please deliver before third Shabbat” or “Give only if she is still homesick by fourth day.”

Yes, in addition to making a fourth freaking trip to Dick’s Sporting Goods to buy the correct moisture-wicking underpants for the camping trip, these moms had planned, shopped and arranged three weeks of care packages in advance. AND PUT CUTE STICKERS ON THEM. Maybe I’m just jealous at their organizational skills, but this level of micromanagement seems just beyond healthy parenting parameters.

The kids hadn’t even dirtied a pair of socks yet, and already there was a huge, smothering wall of love piled up around the Gayle the Nice Office Lady’s desk. And what about spontaneity, or letting the kids let them know what they need in that first whiny letter their counselors make them write? It’s like buying next year’s Chanukah presents in February and finding out it October that they won’t be caught dead in a stupid Harry Styles t-shirt.

I self-righteously kvetched my thoughts on this to Gayle, who nodded sympathetically. Then she dropped the main reason these parents shlepped their care packages to camp:

“Well, it saves a lot on postage.”

Why didn’t I think of that? Woulda saved me the $20 I just spent to overnight pair of wool socks and some fake mustaches. Damn it.