Esther

EstherEsther by Rebecca Kanner
Genres: Biblical Fiction
Published by Howard Books on November 3, 2015
Pages: 377

 

At age fourteen, Esther is kidnapped by King Xerxes’ soldiers and forced to march to the palace along with other young virgins from her village. Once she enters the palace, she is placed in the king’s harem to spend a year preparing for her one night with the king. Her hopes of a normal life, with a husband and children are dashed, and Esther must now earn the favor of the most powerful people in the Persian empire in order to have a chance at becoming queen. Steeped in political turmoil and rich in cultural and historical details, Rebecca Kanner’s Esther is a fabulous retelling of one of the Bible’s most renowned stories.

Steeped in political turmoil and rich in cultural and historical details, Rebecca Kanner’s Esther is a fabulous retelling of one of the Bible’s most renowned stories.

Most people familiar with scripture have heard the story of Esther—a young Jewish girl who becomes queen and saves her people. However, this concise summary doesn’t do justice to the woman whose courage is still celebrated by Jews today. In Rebecca’s retelling of this well-known story, she captures not only Ester’s life and the details that are presented in the Bible, but also life inside the royal harem, and the never ending political struggle to maintain the king’s favor.

I’ll admit, I have never been particularly enamored with Esther’s story. Perhaps I should be, but I never found her as courageous as teachers and preachers oftentimes make her to be. She made the right choice in the end, but it took a descent amount of prodding to get her to that point. However, what Rebecca has created in Esther, is a story that focuses not solely on her courage, but rather captures her loss at being confined to a harem, the difficulties of trying to standout to the king, the skills necessary to survive the constant threat from other harem women, and the emotional toll of knowing her husband is not truly her own. By merging the many obstacles Esther faces, her story becomes more complex and sympathetic, giving the reader a better glimpse into what her life might have been like.

Rebecca does an amazing job of incorporating historical and cultural details into Esther.

Rebecca does an amazing job of incorporating historical and cultural details into Esther. The king’s harem is seen as a treacherous battlefield, full of political landmines. Even though the harem belongs to the king, the women were not truly under his protection. The fear of losing their position and assets is a constant threat and the presentation of this environment truly enhances this book.

In addition to details concerning the harem, Esther gives the reader a fantastic look into the political jockeying of the time. King Xerxes is presented as a weak king, easily swayed and confused. As a result, those who surround him are never truly secure in their position and that includes the queen. Leading into the climax of this book, the king’s fickle nature and weak leadership heightens the tension and helps to highlight the precarious position Esther faced. Even knowing how the story ends, the suspense is still strong as Esther enters the throne room and awaits the king’s final decision.

Some will disagree with the liberties that taken with the story, but most readers will appreciate the wonderful blend of fiction with truth.

I’ve always felt Biblical fiction is one of the most difficult genres to write. Anytime an author attempts to retell a portion of scripture, they are competing with preconceived ideas and long held beliefs. Rebecca does a wonderful job of toeing the line between great fiction and respect for her readers’ beliefs. Some will disagree with the liberties that she has taken with the story, but most will appreciate her wonderful blend of fiction with truth.

I am thoroughly impressed with Esther. It is an absolutely wonderful retelling of this Biblical story. I love the historical detail, the tension and passion that Rebecca brings to this story. She takes some risks in writing this book by tactfully including some sordid details, but those risks are well rewarded. Esther is a fabulous book and one I highly recommend.

2 Comments

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *