Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Sarai by Jill Eileen Smith

I read and enjoyed Jill’s Wives of King David series. So, when I heard about her new series, Wives of the Patriarchs, I couldn’t wait to read Book One: Sarai.

Here’s the summary:

Sarai, the last child of her aged father, is beautiful, spoiled, and used to getting her own way. Even as a young girl, she is aware of the way men look at her, including her half brother Abram. When Abram finally requests Sarai's hand, she asks one thing--that he promise never to take another wife as long as she lives. Even her father thinks the demand is restrictive and agrees to the union only if Sarai makes a promise in return--to give Abram a son and heir. Certain she can easily do that, Sarai agrees.

But as the years stretch on and Sarai's womb remains empty, she becomes desperate to fulfill her end of the bargain--lest Abram decide that he will not fulfill his. To what lengths will Sarai go in her quest to bear a son? And how long will Abram's patience last?

And now, my review:

One of the reasons I’ve enjoyed Jill’s biblical fiction so much is her work is obviously well-researched. Of course we’re talking about a fictionalization of real events, but sometimes as I read I thought, “This makes sense. It could have happened this way.”

Some spiritual elements snagged my attention too. One of those elements was how Abram heard from God. Jill helped bring those experiences into the context of anyone in a relationship with God. Abram followed the nudge of God, left his tent and stood under the stars, and there God gave him promises. Yes. Relatable! Made me long for more communion with God, and that’s what great Christian fiction does. Also, the way the story glorifies God for His faithfulness. He will keep His promises.

The unavoidable point in Sarai’s story where she felt she had no other recourse than to offer her maid to her husband in order to help God bring about the promise was heart-wrenching. Though I know the biblical account, I found myself wishing they’d never taken that route. I put myself in Sarai’s shoes. She was in her late 70s. And though 77 back then may have been spryer than it is today, she was still certainly facing the facts. Wouldn’t you? Jill’s supposition that at their marriage (or engagement) Sarai promised a child to Abram if Abram took only her as his wife made sense, though how you can promise to have a child, I have no idea. God’s in charge of those things. But it certainly worked in this fictional account to give Sarai motivation to use whatever means necessary. Who knew (back when the story played out in Sarah’s and Abraham’s lives) that 13 years later, she’d have a son, in her post-menopausal state? The portrayal of Sarai’s wishy-washy faith struck me. But with her name change, came faith, and promise fulfillment. (Hebrews 11:11)

For the first, oh, third or more of the book, I felt it moved rather slowly. But then it really picked up. And knowing about the upcoming drama with Hagar kept me reading. We also saw into Lot’s experiences as well, so the book isn’t solely centered on Sarai and Abram. Lot was their nephew, so it makes sense to expand the story and give more content to the story.

I haven’t found anyone who can render biblical fiction like Jill Eileen Smith. If you’re looking for a means of digging out more gems from the biblical pages, I recommend reading her fictionalizations. She brings in customs of the times and portrays realistic story elements. Of course, you have to remember it’s fictionalization, but it’s worth exploring.

For your convenience, here are the links for Amazon: the first is paper back, the second e-book format.

Available March 2012 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

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