Thursday, June 26, 2014

Voyage of Strangers by Elizabeth Zelvin



What really happened when Columbus discovered America. Diego Mendoza, a young Marrano sailor with Columbus, returns from the voyage of discovery to find that his sister Rachel is in danger from the Inquisition as a secret Jew. After failing to find safety in Spain, they sail with Admiral Columbus on the second voyage to Hispaniola, where they must struggle with divided loyalties as the Spaniards' greed for gold and conquest clashes with the local Taino people's way of life. Both Diego and Rachel find courage, love, and heartache as they come of age in a doomed paradise. Sequel to Zelvin's Agatha-nominated mystery, "The Green Cross."
Leona's Review:
Voyage of Strangers by Elizabeth Zelvin
This book is based on the sailings of Christopher Columbus and the sailings to the Americas. The book is in first person by Diego so we see one viewpoint of what happened.
The main characters are a brother and sister, Diego and Rachel Mendoza. They are Jewish and from Spain during the time of the Inquisition. Diego especially seems to have a hatred for Christians because most are cruel in their actions. Because they are Jewish, they keep it a secret from all except Columbus. Diego sailed with Columbus on his first voyage to the Americas and convinced Columbus to take his sister as a cabin boy on the second voyage to the Americas so she could leave Spain.
Lots of history but I found a dark novel based on fact and fiction. I was not aware in all my readings of the slavery from the Islands in the Caribbean. The book had a lot of light moments and love is also part of the book. I learned a lot the area, food, hardships and cruelty to the local people. As readers we see, with the eyes of Diego, customs and ways of life of the Taino Indians.  I also learned more about the Jewish people and some of their customs.
The author has done her research. She has included a dateline of events which begins with the prologue December 24, 1492 and ends February 24,1495 with chapter 36. The list of characters include 28 people known to history and 38 fictional characters including Rosa, the mule, and Baxtalo, the dog. I like maps and would have liked to have seen one included in the book. I have been to most of the places so I could picture them and the route. Little tidbits of information were useful to read like using a lemon to clean teeth and help prevent teeth rot.
There is an Afterword which is about the book and the facts and fiction of the novel.
She has a list of acknowledgements of people who have helped her in this writing.
The Green Cross was the first book Elizabeth Zelvin wrote about Columbus so I will also have to read that one. This book can be read without reading the Green Cross first.
I downloaded this book from
I give it a 4 star rating because of the history and research by the author.
Elizabeth Zelvin may be reached at
Leona Olson

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