I've never read biblical fiction before reading this book. In fact, I used to find the term a bit confusing and honestly, didn't know how to feel about it. I always felt like 'you don't mess with the Bible', ya know? I never thought this genre was for me because of that reason. But I began this book with an open and curious mind and was happily surprised at how much I enjoyed it.
Here's a bit about the book from Eva Etzioni-Halevy's website:
The richly imagined saga of Deborah, the courageous biblical warrior, prophetess and leader who saved her people from certain destruction.
In ancient Israel, war is looming. Deborah has coerced warrior Barak into launching a strike against the neighboring Canaanites, who threaten their people with destruction. Against all odds he succeeds, returning triumphantly with two daughters of the Canaanite King as his captives. But military victory is only the beginning of the turmoil, as a complex love triangle develops between Barak and the two princesses.Deborah, recently cast off by her husband, develops a surprising affinity for Barak. Yet she struggles to rebuild her existence on her own terms, while also groping her way toward the greatest triumph of her life: the attainment of peace. Based on the book of Judges , and filled with brilliantly vivid historical detail, the novel shows that in her own life Deborah was very much a woman, and that her femininity did not detract from her stature as national leader. Thereby it pays tribute to Deborah's feminine strength and independence from which present day women, seeking to build lives of their own and assert themselves in whatever way they choose to do so, may derive inspiration.
I'll come right out and say it - I originally thought I would have a difficult time getting into this book, but once I started reading about Deborah from the Old Testament, I quickly changed my thinking. I'm not real familiar with all of the stories from the Bible so this was a learning experience for me. Keeping in mind that this is a fictional story woven into biblical facts made for an interesting read.
The three women in this story, Deborah, the adored Prophetess; Asherah, the daughter of Jabin, the Canaanite King; and Nogah, the illegitimate daughter of King Jabin and a female Isrealite slave, are each very different women. In telling the story, the author manages to show the strengths of each of them and the important roles they played while staying true to relations between men and women in those times.
Deborah was a fascinating woman who had earned so much respect and love from the Israelite people. It was rare in those days for a woman to hold so much power and to be perceived almost as royalty. She sacrificed so much, personally, for her people but she never wavered from what she felt she must do.
My favorite character in the story though, is Nogah. As a child born into slavery, her life with her mother was very difficult in her early years. At fifteen when she discovered that the king who had enslaved her mother was, in fact her father, her life became much different. He acknowledge her and grew to love her very much. So when the war between the Canaanites and Isrealites came, she was torn between the two tribes. Throughout the story, Nogah faces such hard times yet she never sacrificed her beliefs and always acted with honor.
I even grew to like the character of Barak, the warrior who Deborah convinced to lead the Israelites in the war. Being a 'modern woman' it was difficult at first to remember that in ancient times, men were not faithful to one woman and it was normal for a man to have more than one wife. In the end, he was an honorable man, even though at times, stubborn, he was able to see that he may have to humble himself for the good of all the people, including his enemy.
Eva Etzioni-Halevy, an Israeli socialogist, does a wonderful job of portraying these characters and showing that women played an importance role in our history, even as far back as in the days of The Old Testament.
I truly enjoyed reading this book and I can say now that biblical fiction is a genre I like and will definitely read again. Eva Etzioni-Halevy has written many other books including THE GARDEN OF RUTH and THE SONG OF HANNAH to name a few. If you haven't ventured into this genre, I encourage you to try it with an open mind. You may just like it! Here are a few other reviews for this book:
Genre: Historica/Biblical Fiction
Rating: 4 Stars out of 5 (I really liked it!)