by Eva Etzioni-Halevy
This book had me changing my mind about it several times. First I was impressed by the true-to-life complexity of the characters. Then I was disappointed in the sensational turn the story took. I was grateful for the sparsity of details in regards to war without glossing right over it; then I was turned off by the sheer volume of s*xual encounters, giving the story a romance novel feel. I appreciated the love story and its affect on the characters but soon found it straying into the realm of non-reality. In short I found it to be somewhat engaging as an historical novel with a pinch of the absurd.
The book opens with the gradual introduction of three very different women: Deborah, the current Judge and Prophetess of Israel; Asherah, the daughter of the Canaanite King Jabin, enemy of Israel; and Nogah, the illegitimate daughter of King Jabin and an Israelite slave. I was drawn in to each of their stories and curious as to how the author would develop them beyond what I already knew from reading Judges 4 & 5 in my Bible(where the story of Deborah is originally told). I was particularly glad to see strong female characters that were not filtered through the sieve of modern day feminism. But as soon as Barak entered the picture with his eternal bed of splendor I began to have some concerns.
I think the book highly imaginative and not your average religious fiction. In fact, the religion part only appears in its historical context. I appreciated that. It gives the book a wider appeal for those from many different faiths or no particular religious sway. I am curious to read another of her books entitled The Garden of Ruth but I am leery of more of this same tendency toward romantic titillation. If the story had been taken more seriously it could have been phenomenal but as it is it is a worthy alternative to the average Christian romance novel.