Kantika: A Novel (Hardcover)
A dazzling Sephardic multigenerational saga that moves from Istanbul to Barcelona, Havana, and New York, exploring displacement, endurance, and family as home.
A kaleidoscopic portrait of one family’s displacement across four countries, Kantika—“song” in Ladino—follows the joys and losses of Rebecca Cohen, feisty daughter of the Sephardic elite of early 20th-century Istanbul. When the Cohens lose their wealth and are forced to move to Barcelona and start anew, Rebecca fashions a life and self from what comes her way—a failed marriage, the need to earn a living, but also passion, pleasure and motherhood. Moving from Spain to Cuba to New York for an arranged second marriage, she faces her greatest challenge—her disabled stepdaughter, Luna, whose feistiness equals her own and whose challenges pit new family against old.
Exploring identity, place and exile, Kantika also reveals how the female body—in work, art and love—serves as a site of both suffering and joy. A haunting, inspiring meditation on the tenacity of women, this lush, lyrical novel from Elizabeth Graver celebrates the insistence on seizing beauty and grabbing hold of one’s one and only life.
“In Graver’s vision, migration is never simply a one-way street… Kantika is a meticulous endeavor to preserve the memories of a family, an elegy and a celebration both.”
—Ayten Tartici, The New York Times
"Graver delivers a luminous story of a Sephardic family. Fans of family epics will love this."
"Beautiful and lyrical. [Kantika] is a piece of transnational, century-spanning Jewish history."
“A remarkable, lyrical work . . . Graver has written an elegant coming-of-age story that is also an epic of the Sephardi diaspora, spanning generations, wars, and continents.”
—Sarah Abrevaya Stein, Jewish Review of Books
“Graver’s paean to resolve and resiliency paints a vivid portrait of spirit and grit.”
—Carol Haggas, Booklist
“Enigmatic and enticing . . . Graver crafts a compelling narrative, weaving in threads of religion and history, feminism and family dynamics, passion and duty, survival and love .”
—Katie Noah Gibson, Shelf Awareness
“Beautiful and lyrical. Kantika is a piece of transnational, century-spanning Jewish history.”
—Karen Skinazi, Jewish Journal
“In the end, Kantika‘s heroine triumphs not in a larger-than-life way, but in a way that makes her feel relatable . . . We, too, are invited to enter into the story and make a place for ourselves.”
—Nina B. Lichtenstein, Jewish Book Council
“Intimately imagined, lyrically written, and rich with historical detail, Kantika weaves forced displacement, wild reinvention and triumphant healing into a big, border-crossing family saga. Marvelous!”
—Gish Jen, author of Thank You, Mr. Nixon
“Both epic and heartfelt, Kantika belongs in the company of the great twentieth-century immigrant Jewish writers, such as Saul Bellow, Cynthia Ozick, Grace Paley, and Henry Roth.”
—Joshua Henkin, author of Morningside Heights
"Kantika is an acute and compassionate portrait of displacement and reinvention, and it sings."
—Michael Frank, author of One Hundred Saturdays: Stella Levi and the Search for a Lost World
“A gorgeous accomplishment. In intimate and inventive prose, Elizabeth Graver carries us to the vibrantly drawn streets of Constantinople, Barcelona, Havana and New York. We follow her remarkable characters through grief and hope, and into human connections as delicate as they are profound. This is a novel to get lost in.”
—Rachel Kadish, author of The Weight of Ink
“This utterly captivating novel illuminates how one family's history is history. Astonishing work, reminiscent, to my mind, of the best of the great Italian writer Elsa Morante.”
—Peter Orner, author of Maggie Brown & Others
“From the first page, I was swept up and carried along on the migrations of an unforgettable family. Kantika is a gripping story of 20th-century Sephardic exile and reinvention and the longing for homes, both old and new.”
—Tova Mirvis, author of The Book of Separation
“In gorgeous detail, this epic family story restores a lost time and place. Kantika is both an immigrant tale and a hero’s journey as Graver’s extraordinary characters—first among them the indomitable Rebecca—travel between worlds and find ways to refashion their lives.”
—Allegra Goodman, author of Sam
“Kantika is a beautiful, moving and splendidly entertaining evocation of a lost world. Elizabeth Graver looks back at family history with a novelist's eye and a poet's empathy.”
—John Banville, author of The Singularities
“A story of immigration, tenacity, family bonds and change that sits in a liminal space between fact and fiction, making for fascinating reading.”
—Jaime Herndon, Hadassah Magazine