Vashti’s Daughter – the Synopsis
Yes, it IS true that writing a 1000 word synopsis of a 96,000 + word novel is REALLY difficult, but I DID IT! A writer’s life doesn’t take holidays off, not even for turkey… or latkes as the case may be.
For my 100+ “fans” on this site and maybe some wandering agents/publishers out there who wish to make millions on what will be the next NY TIMES BEST SELLER, enjoy the condensed “Cliff notes” of Vashti’s Daughter… (comments welcomed)
When twenty-nine-year-old, newly divorced Anna Stein, owner of Steine and Stein Publishers in Los Angeles returned to her office at exactly 2:18 pm, she finds two items on her desk: an invitation to her best friend, attorney Elaine Levine’s Purim party and an unsolicited manuscript titled “Vashti’s Daughter” by Dr. Nathanial Braverman. She replies affirmatively to the invitation and tosses the manuscript into the trash.
At the party, all the women are dressed as Queen Esther. Anna comes as Vashti. As the Migallah story is read, Anna sees a strange woman staring at her, but no one knows who she is. During the party festivities, Anna has her tarot cards read by Shifra, a professional Kabbalist who predicts Anna is destined to right an injustice and change the world. Skeptical Anna laughs. That night, Anna dreams she’s Adara, the daughter of Queen Vashti, who looks exactly like the woman she saw at the party.
Anna starts craving Persian food. Her dreams are becoming more frequent and in greater detail. Anna goes to a hypnotherapist who deals in past life regression. Under hypnosis, Anna is answering his questions in ancient Farsi.
After winning a major lawsuit, Elaine invites Anna to a charity basketball game between Anna’s alma mater, Syracuse University and USC. At exactly 2:18 pm, Elaine introduces Anna to her star witness, Nate, who had played for Syracuse in their NCAA Championship. Anna realizes Nate is the author of Vashti’s Daughter.
Nate feels an instant attraction to Anna. He invites her to his seminar on Vashti he’s presenting at the House of Book at Brandeis-Bardin Campus of the American Jewish University. After she confronts him about being the author of Vashti’s Daughter, he relates how, on his visit to the tomb of Esther and Mordechai in Hamadan, Iran to finish his dissertation he heard a ghostly voice who recited the entire text with a command he give it to Anna for publication.
Anna has another dream where she, as Adara, meets Darius, Queen Esther’s son, who bears a strong resemblance to Nate. He tells her of how much he loves her and is eagerly anticipating their upcoming wedding, which had been arranged by their mothers. Anna rushes back to the castle to confront Vashti as an arranged marriage goes against everything she thought Vashti believed in. She meets her in the garden where Vashti reveals the truth; she knew Anna was returning to the persona of her daughter Adara, as the event had been repeating for generations right before the wedding and there was a curse which was causing the reincarnation. Although Vashti didn’t know exactly what the curse was, if Anna didn’t find a way to break it, her future generations would continue to suffer the same fate.
Back in the present, Anna is preparing for the annual Los Angeles Festival of Books, where she will be on a publishing discussion panel with her ex-husband Harry, who formed his own print-on-demand company after the divorce. During the set-up, Anna meets authors and reincarnation experts, Dr. Jim B. Tucker and Walter Semkiw, to sign them for future publications.
Still furious about his loss of his company in the divorce, Harry steals a preview copy of Vashti’s Daughter. After publically being embarrassed at the discussion by Anna and jealous of Anna and Nate’s relationship, Henry sets out to discredit Nate. He leaks to the media Nate’s connection to the basketball scandals at Syracuse and the Maccabi Tel Aviv teams.
As a result, Nate’s reputation and Anna’s company suffer. Nate is on the brink of losing his Tenure. All his classes and seminars are canceled. Authors are canceling their contracts. Many employees at Steine and Steine quit. Agents are refusing Anna’s calls.
With all the chaos in their professional lives, Anna and Nate’s relationship suffers. Anna realizes the only way to save them both is to find proof that Vashti’s Daughter is based on fact. A large shipment of artifacts from an archeological dig in Shahr-e Qumis arrives at the Skirball Museum. While Anna and Nate are helping set-up the display, Anna passes out.
When Anna regains consciousness, she finds herself seated at a banquet table with Vashti, Darius, and his mother, Queen Esther, who are all there to celebrate the upcoming wedding. Darius publically proclaims when they are married, all of Adara’s lands, army and citizens would become his and that she would do as he commanded, not like his father’s first wife, Vashti.
At that moment, Anna tells Darius the wedding is off. Esther leaves. On the road, her carriage hits a rock and overturns. Adara and Darius rush to her side, where she hands Adara a book that reveals the truth about Vashti and her role in the story saying “Adara, you must take this book to Shushan and make sure everyone knows the truth about you and your mother. Swear on your immortal soul. This is my dying wish. Let nothing or no one stop you.”
Adara (Anna) swears she will.
Just as Esther dies, Darius grabs the book, tosses it into the river, and says, “This is what I think of your mother and her truth. The truth is, my father was humiliated by Vashti in front of his friends and you just embarrassed me in front of all our guests. As far as your mother is concerned, she’s as dead to my people as my mother is now to me. I will make sure that the name Adara and your entire story will be erased from history, just as my father did to Vashti’s name. As for you, Adara, you will never know another love like mine in this life and all others to come.”
Anna wakes up in Nate’s arms on the museum floor. She tells him what happened in the vision and he believes her. They take Steine and Steine’s private jet to the dig in Shahr-e Qumis. There, they learn the city suffered a major 7.9 earthquake in 856 AD that wiped out the city and buried the cabin that Anna had visited as Adara.
Inside are artifacts, paintings of Adara, who look exactly like Anna. She finds the book Esther had written, which had been rescued from the river by Vashti, proving Nate’s story. Seeing the resemblance of the paintings to Anna and Nate, the scientist at the dig performs a DNA test at the site. The results prove Nate is a decedent of Queen Esther, while Anna’s DNA is an exact match to Adara’s.
Nate declares his love to Anna and proposes at exactly 2:18 pm, which is when Darius had cursed Adara centuries ago.
Anna accepts. The Rabbi watching over the dig them right before Anna’s 30th birthday. While the “love curse” is broken, Anna still needs to fulfill the promise to reveal the truth to the world. They “crash” the Jerusalem International Book Fair. They’re allowed in when the security guard recognizes Nate from his days playing on the basketball champion of the Maccabi Tel Aviv games.
Once they return home, the artifacts they bought back are on now on display at the museum with Dr. Braverman’s name prominently attached. Vashti’s Daughter is re-edited to include photos and proof of events that change the story of Purim FOREVER.
Vashti fans celebrate. Steine and Steine publish a “revised” bible adding a sixth book to the Megillah; The Book of Vashti. The company starts a Jewish genre division for both fiction and non-fiction, and Nate’s tenure is reinstated. At Elaine’s Purim party the following year, ALL the women are dressed as Vashti.
Epilogue: Five years later, Nate, Anna and their daughter Melody are attending the Ojai Music Festival when one of the fireworks for the evening’s celebration accidentally goes off igniting the trees and cutting off any escape for the attendees.
Melody escapes her parent’s grip and rushes to the stage where she picks of a tambourine left there by the previous act. She holds it high and shouts into the mic for everyone to follow her to the lake.
Mesmerized, everyone stops panicking and does as she says. At the edge of the lake, Melody finds a large branch, climbs on top of a sand dune, and raises the staff over her head. The waters of the lake begin to part, allowing the festival attendees to walk across to safely.
Anna and Nate turned to each other.
“Oh, shit! Here we go again!”
- Posted in: Publishing Commentary