The Living Waters of History

The Mapmaker’s Daughter

by Laurel Corona

Sourcebooks, 368 pp., $14.99

On a late Friday afternoon in 1432 Sevilla, a young converso girl named Amalia stops to wash off the ashes her mother has purposefully smeared on her to make her look dirty, before sending her out to the butcher. After throwing the pork sausages and ham she has bought into some tall grass, she begins to scrub herself in the natural spring her mother, a secret Jew, calls mayyim hayyim, “Living water,” though it makes the girl’s “fingers look as pale as the dead.” This finely crafted scene, rich with layered meaning, opens the latest historical novel by Laurel Corona, The Mapmaker’s Daughter. After whispering the Hebrew blessing recited upon washing one’s hands, Amalia, six, begins to clean off the grime.

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About the Author

Amy Newman Smith is the associate editor of the Jewish Review of Books.


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