The short take This was a fantastic read; rich in emotional and historical details and peppered with nuggets of spiritual insight. A must-read for Biblical fiction lovers.
Full review Israel’s exodus from Egypt has to be one of the most fascinating events in history, not to mention one of the best-known Bible stories, but how often do we actually stop to think about what it would have been like to witness it? How often do we fully comprehend the magnitude of what God was asking of the Hebrews? Of Moses? Of Miriam? This book depicts all that and more, but as spectacular as the events were, it was Mesu Andrews’ emotionally complex characters and vivid historical detail that really brought this story to life for me. I will never read the Exodus story with the same eyes, or heart, again.
When the story opens, Miriam is eighty-six years old. She is a slave, a midwife, a healer of herbs, and the messenger of El Shaddai. When he speaks to her in dreams, she interprets. When he whispers a melody, she sings. She is the only person El Shaddai has spoken through since the time of Joseph; until the day He seemingly falls silent and she cannot hear him speaking to her spirit the way He always has. That’s when Moses, the brother who fled Egypt forty years earlier, returns with Aaron to tell them that he has met with God on His mountain, and has been sent to deliver the children of Israel. She should rejoice, but instead she feels abandoned by God, and then guilty at her selfishness.
The other primary character in this novel is Eleazar, Aaron’s third son and therefore the nephew of Miriam. Unlike his Doda Miriam, he cannot trust in a God who allows His people to suffer as the Hebrews have. He is the slave commander at Rameses and a bodyguard to Pharaoh’s second firstborn (that is, the firstborn from the second of Pharaoh's wives), and is therefore perfectly placed to witness the effect of the plagues on the Egyptian court – not to mention bear the brunt of their displeasure as the plagues intensify. He walks a fine line between loyalty to his master and loyalty to his kinsmen, but even so, that seems a whole lot easier than understanding the beautiful and spirited young woman he’s just married.
Watching these characters grow through the novel, both personally and spiritually, was richly rewarding on a personal level, let alone as a reading experience, and Mesu Andrews wrote her secondary characters so well that we know and identify with their struggles as well, even if we don’t actually get their point of view. Each character’s responses to the events taking place were unique to their situation, and yet they also complemented one another's journeys, allowing one to build up where another was struggling.
One of the things that hit home as I read this novel was that, despite the uniqueness of their circumstances, these people faced the same personal and spiritual struggles that we do today. Where is God in the midst of our trouble? How do we respond when God takes us out of our comfort zone? When he asks us to leave behind everything we've ever known and follow him into the unknown? It’s easy to look back now and see what God was doing, but it isn’t always easy to trust Him when we’re in the middle, and that was very true of the characters in this novel. But trust they did, however imperfectly. Having faith in God does not mean we do not struggle and doubt; it means we’re willing to obey in spite of our struggles and doubts, just as these characters did.
This book reminded me yet again why I love Biblical fiction so much. There is a visceral sense of wonderment that comes from connecting so strongly with real people from history; real people who encounter God in powerful ways, and yet struggle with exactly the same conflicts that we face. I came away not only having enjoyed a fine novel, but encouraged in my walk with God. Thank you Mesu Andrews!
I received a complimentary copy of this novel through Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review.