Memoirs of a False Messiah
by Pamela Becker
Genre: Women's Fiction
MiMi knows she is meant for something greater. She has a God-given mission. This belief, together with tragedy, moves her from the mixed-religion home of her early childhood to Orthodox Judaism in her teens, to the establishment and development of her cult in the Israeli desert. MiMi draws from the women in her life, in the Bible, and in other ancient texts, weaving modern and biblical dilemmas, as she shapes a truly unique place for her followers and herself. When her life and utopian community grow more turbulent and even violent, she questions her mission.
Deeply affecting and thought-provoking, Memoirs of a False Messiah is the richly told story of a woman's struggle to find her place in a world reluctant to accept her.
Kindle Countdown Sale!
Sep 3 & 4 - only . 99 cents!
Sep 5 & 6 - only $1.99!
Sep 7 & 8 - reduced to $2.99
Chapter One: 2001
Shelley shaves my head again. She propped me up with pillows, so I am sitting upright. With my eyes closed, I feel the buzzer vibrate on a path across my scalp and listen to its hum as I try to empty my mind in meditation. But today, perhaps because of all my medication, meditation seems impossible, and my mind wishes to stay active, busy with memories that could possibly explain why I am sitting in this hospital bed, surrounded by my beautiful followers, as my life seeps out of me faster than the IV can replace it.
Of course, the simple answer is no mystery. I’m dying, and therefore I’m in a hospital where doctors, who know of only the practical world, try earnestly to save me. But I know that it’s not surgery or medication that I need, but forgiveness for whatever sin I committed against God who wants to take me from the earth before my work is fully realized. After all, it’s God’s work that I've been laboring.
Perhaps I'm not a messiah. The messages I received from God were not really sent. Since coming to the hospital, I've had no visions of the future, only of the past. Maybe my time as the messenger of God, if that is what I was, has ended.
But I always knew, when no one else did, that I was chosen for a special task. I grew up practically unnoticed by my peers. I had few friends. In the mythologies my followers have created, my mother died at my birth. The electricity went out in the hospital while the doctors stood trapped in an elevator. The hand of God delivered me and then touched my mother’s eyelids closed for the last time. Of course, that didn’t happen. My mother died later, and my birth was unmagical, unspecial. If anything, I was on the periphery of the tragedies in my home. An only child, I was more an appendage of my parents’ troublesome life together than anything else.
I look around my hospital room and see these women with their bald heads and flesh-colored body stockings, and I understand that they look this way for me. To be closer to me. To be like me. Who asked them to? What have I said or done to make these women so loyal? Have I done as instructed by God? Or have I failed and this is my punishment. I grow confused as the medication draws its power and I drift back towards the restless sleep that I know will be full of disturbing images of the tragedies in my past. My parents and grandparents come to me in these dreams, critical and unsmiling. So many judgments.
Tonight a new moon will rise, and in celebration, my followers will wear their white robes and meditate and pray and hope that the power of the moon will keep me from dying. But I know the moon’s power is not that strong, even if I were worthy of a miracle. I know the moon, in its great whiteness, is as useless as the white round pills the nurses give me. But my followers prepare, shaving my head and their own. Back at the Community, they’re cooking a delicious banquet that will be available to anyone who would like to eat, and they will celebrate my new coming health. I look at them with considerable effort because now, even lifting my eyes is a strain, and I ask myself, What have I done?
Memoirs of a False Messiah is Pamela Becker's debut novel. Originally from New York, she has enjoyed a long career as a marketing executive and consultant for some of Israel's leading technology companies. After she was widowed with three small children, Pamela co-founded and remains the active chairperson of the Israeli charity Jeremy's Circle, which supports children coping with cancer treatment or cancer loss in their immediate families. A graduate of the Writing Seminars program at the Johns Hopkins University and the Arad Arts Project artist residency program in Israel, she earned an MBA from Tel Aviv University. Pamela lives with her husband and their five children in Tel Aviv.
What inspired you to write this book?
I first moved to a small desert town in Israel in 1994, as part of a writer-in-residence program. I was living in New York City at the time, struggling with working a day job, writing short fiction and getting them published in tiny magazines. The clean, dry desert air was invigorating.
I had several projects in the works at the time and became introduced to the Black Hebrew community in a nearby town. The founders were originally from the US, and they had created a community of like-minded people. This caught my imagination. What drives someone to create a community so completely different in belief and location from the one they came from?
Like my main character, I was educated in the New York City yeshiva world but was never comfortable with the “different but equal” role of women in Orthodox Judaism.
The more I learned about the Black Hebrews, one idea just led to another, and a Jewish woman, who may or may not be a false Messiah, was born…in my imagination and on the page until it all came together as my novel Memoirs of a False Messiah.
Where did you come up with the names in the story?
What is more narcissistic than writing a memoir? Or thinking that God has singled you out? The main character of Memoirs of a False Messiah is named MiMi – pronounced MeMe!
Mimi is often a nickname for Miriam, the name given to her beloved aunt. MiMi loves this aunt and could have easily grown up to be just like her if she hadn’t been compelled by a mission from God.
At first, I named all the side characters in the story after my sisters – I have four – just because they were far away, and I missed them. This way I was still “close” to them when I was writing. But then, just before I published, I changed them.
Tell us something really interesting that's happened to you!
One of the most incredible experiences in my life was accompanying my sister to Moscow to adopt her daughter, then four years old. We had to stay all together in a hotel for a week, as my sister completed all the necessary procedures and paperwork. I was still breast-feeding, so I brought my youngest who was only four months old along with me. My niece didn’t speak any English yet, we didn’t speak Russian, and my baby son helped break the ice.
I had brought wrapped toys for each day we were together. The first time I gave her a box wrapped in pretty paper, she didn’t know what to do with it. She had never seen a wrapped present before, which stunned me, though I guess I should not have been surprised.
Each day she grew a little more comfortable with my sister, who was a first-time mom and adopting on her own. It was like watching a miracle slowly unfold.
What are some of your pet peeves?
Things that disappear drive me crazy. Most often its keys, but it can be anything in my house that isn’t where I am SURE I left it. It’s not just me and my forgetfulness. My husband is a neat freak, but what he calls cleaning, I call Hiding Pam’s Things so She Can’t Find Them. I also have five generous teenagers who can take without asking the most random things – the can opener, measuring tape, HDMI cable from the Xbox – and give to friends who “need” them.
Where were you born/grew up at?
I grew up in a small town in Upstate New York and moved to New York City when I was thirteen to attend an Orthodox Jewish high school because there were no Jewish high schools where we lived. The school did not have dorms, so I stayed at my grandparents’ apartment in Stuyvesant Town and then at age 16 moved to the 92nd St YMHA. Most of the residents there were college or graduate students. There were only 2 high school kids boarding there at the time – a boy estranged from his guardians and me.
Follow the tour HERE for exclusive excerpts, guest posts and a giveaway!