Thursday, January 8, 2015

Book Review: Esther by Angela Hunt

I recently started reviewing books for Bethany House Publishers, and one of the first books I received was Esther by Angela Hunt. I’m not going to lie – when I saw the cover art, I was a little concerned that I had somehow ended up with a Biblical historical romance novel (does such a thing even exist?). But I was pleasantly surprised when I actually sat down to read it.

See what I mean? The photo is a bit much, but don't be afraid...
Growing up in the church, I never considered the true weight of what Hadassah (Esther) was called to do, nor did I consider the scandal that it involved for a truly devout Jewish woman (or, let’s be honest, any woman). The author gave me a look into the thoughts and emotions of Hadassah, but also developed her husband the king further, so I was able to see that kings of that day were truly ruled by their own laws, often with dire consequences.

The story plays out with a trade between two narrators, Hadassah and a eunuch who serves the king named Harbonah. I enjoyed the development of both characters, but actually ended up more vested in Harbonah by the end. I guess I’m a sucker for a supporting character, and I liked the way the author used him to develop the king’s character as well, following him throughout his daily activities and even all the way to Greece on a war campaign.

I’m not sure if the author did additional research on Hadassah from other sources or just painted her through her own eyes, but I found her portrayal of Hadassah as a girl more interested in the Persian culture and less in her own faith thought-provoking. She definitely undergoes a change throughout the novel, which is the mark of good character development. I also enjoyed the relationship the author established between Hadassah and Mordecai’s wife Miriam, although I’m again unsure whether that was real or fictional.

Whether you grew up in the church or just want an interesting historical read, I think you’ll find this book worth your time. The author took certain liberties to fill in the story, but she certainly didn’t change the facts, which I appreciate. She created likable, yet flawed, characters and spent plenty of time developing the back story before she got right to the point. I’ll leave you with a quote that sums it up.

By wearing torn burlap and ashes, my cousin had reminded me that we Jews were not like the rest of the world. We walked in it, traded in it, communicated in it, and did acts of kindness for it. To the casual observer, we might have looked like ordinary people, but we were not. About that, at least, Haman was right.

We were children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and we served an invisible God, who remained close to us no matter where we lived. But our hearts did not – should not – belong to this world.

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