Ettie hesitated, wondering if it was even possible for a woman to have the power of creation. She had been a sinner all her life, refusing to do as she was told, holding on to dreams that were improper for someone of her age and sex.

"Perhaps my mother is right," she wondered aloud. "It may be that women are not meant to bring such a creature to life or to walk through the gates of knowledge."

"Of course it's possible," Hanni said in a reasonable tone. "Women create life, and therefore shouldn't those gates open all the more easily to us?" She knelt beside Ettie. Their arms were smeared with slick black mud. "Make certain it is able to have a voice."

"You want it to speak? Are you positive?" Golems were not meant to have the ability to talk back or argue.

But Hanni nodded, sure of herself. What good would a silent, lurking monster be? The creature that protected her daughter must be able to speak up on her behalf, as a mother would do. Ettie went on to make an indentation for a mouth, then moved the clay to form eyes and a nose as well. But there was more that Hanni desired for her daughter's guardian. From an inner pocket of her jacket, she brought forth a garment she had been working. She had made a simple but perfectly tailored dress, gray with white buttons. Leaning close she whispered, "Make certain it's a woman."

Excerpted from "The World That We Knew," ©2019 by Alice Hoffman. Reprinted with permission of Simon & Schuster. All rights reserved.