Nita Berry
Nita Berry
BLESSED by Deepa Agarwal Hachette, 2019, 244 pp., 399
November 2019, volume 43, No 11

Blessed is the fascinating story of Selentra, the fourth child of a poor village weaver who possesses an extraordinary gift—she can read the ancient ‘forgotten tongue’, the Nor-dorok language. ‘Selentra found she could decipher the letters and the strange white shapes just by looking at them.’ Her urge to do this is overpowering and indeed blasphemous at a time when girls are not supposed to learn to read or write, because of an ancient curse.

Her elder brother Dumor resents her ever since the time she overshadowed him on his First Letter Day, a ritual for boys after which they can go to school. In his eyes, she committed the most unforgiveable sacrilege by writing on his white tablet when he himself hesitated to do so.

A mysterious birthmark on the back of her neck makes Selentra even more different. Realizing she is a very special girl, the village priest Tarash hurries off to tell the Holy One about his hunch. Can she be, is she really the Blessed Child, prophesied to be born a hundred years before? The Blessed One would save the land from pestilence and ruin at the hands of the villainous Ag-yanees, and free girls everywhere from the taboo of reading and writing, it was long foretold. At all costs, both the priest and the Holy One realize that Selentra would need to be strictly protected from the enemy.

Continue reading this review