Skip to main content

The Book of Esther by Emily Barton







The Book of Esther by Emily Barton

Set in Eastern Europe in 1942, in a small of nation of warrior Turkic Jews, Emily Barton has given us a novel that brings together historical vision, well-developed characters, and a plotline that moves along steadily.  The main character, Esther, is a conglomeration of wisdom, shrewdness, and prophet, seeing the way in which events will soon turn out ahead of time.  The women in the community forge traditional older ways of living with an eye towards mercy, helping those refugees who flee into the land with knitted hats, scarfs, and other wearable items. 

One of the beautiful ways that Barton develops and brings out the character of Esther is through the combination of her received religious tradition and her experience of life as she leaves her father Josephus.  Barton writes, “For three years, Esther, a legal adult had fasted on Yom Kippur, but that was different: spiritual in nature but for a purpose.  And on the Day of Atonement all one did was pray and fast.  Today, they’d ridden like Mongol warriors since dawn.  Her back hurt, her legs thrummed…Her body needed food (46).”  There is a memory of fasting and hunger but this was for a spiritual and religious purpose, and yet, her hunger on this road to war was also for a purpose, one which she didn’t presently fully understand.

Another aspect that caught my attention in the story was Seleme, the mechanical horse that ran on a 150cc engine.  Barton keenly describes the horse as having much the characteristics of a fighting bull, “Seleme had been designed for war: to charge, to do battle, to retreat when necessary.  All of her sensory apparatus now engaged.  Her ears swiveled to the sides,…(70).”  Esther quickly finds out that her father’s use of available fuel and mechanic’s work on Seleme was something she did not possess, but learned how to find the right fuel.  In the desire to save Khazaria, Esther found a friend in her battle ready mechanical horse, Seleme, even surprising many on her journey, even the ferry man. 

Seeking to save Khazaria from Germania, Esther sets out on a journey with little but a friend, a mechanical horse, and a wholehearted desire to do harm to her enemies.  A bit of alternative history and reminiscent of the character in the Bible, Esther is a woman on a mission.  This story through all its twists and turns is worth reading.

Thanks to Blogging for Books for the copy of this book in exchange for an honest review

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning

Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning by Timothy Snyder
Misperceptions, misconnections, and missed observations are just some of the issues that Timothy Snyder raises in his book, Black Earth, concerning the Holocaust.  Snyder, no stranger to the frontlines of scholarship on the Holocaust, with his previous book Bloodlands, that concerns the land from Hitler to Stalin, takes a look at the Holocaust from new sources and new avenues of thought.  How did some nation-states survive relatively unscathed from Nazi persecution while others, notably Jewish populations, succumb to a wave of killings?  Also, what was the role of the Soviet Union in the war and how did Stalin effect changes in the Final Solution?  These questions are only two of the many that Snyder answers in his detailed account of the Holocaust.
One of the best chapters was entitled The Auschwitz Paradox.  Generally when the public thinks about the Holocaust, we think of Auschwitz first or at the top of our mental m…

the great spiritual migration

The Great Spiritual Migration by Brian D McLaren

Brian McLaren and his own pithy way brings to the foreground and emphasis on a new kind of Christianity. The kind of faith that Brian envisions is a kind of migration not been set in the bedrock of beliefs that is unmoving but rather shifting with both culture and with faith. His new book the great spiritual migration is exactly that, a pointed work that encapsulates a vision towards the future where Christianity is changing and its peoples lives are changed as well.

Brian states in the introduction, "but we also know that for a lot of people Christianity is malfunctioning, seriously so, and it's not pretty. This kind of frustration with conventional Christianity is what McLaren gets gets to at the heart of this message is concerned with a number of different clusters unbelief. One, namely that Christianity has been stuck in a set of propositions or beliefs that has controlled churches in the faith, rather then a spirit of love t…

The Paraclete Poetry Anthology, Edited by Mark S. Burrows

Bringing words to life on a page is hard work, and no work is harder than poetry.  Poets take the visceral, the mundane, and the disjointed and frayed things of life and put them on their head.  This new anthology of poetry put out by Paraclete Press and edited by Mark S. Burrows, takes the best poetry of today and brings together old and new poems from these gifted creators.  You find poems from Scott Cairs, SAID, Phyllis Tickle, and others.  The collection stems the span of 2005-2016 and includes both religious poems and themes, as well as themes covering a broad swath of topics.

One of the beauties of this collection is the array of poems that the anthology includes in its pages.  One poem in particular stuck with me as read through the collection.  Anna Kamienska is a wonderful Polish poet who interacts with the wider lens of faith while looking carefully at the world we live in.  She says in her poem named Gratitude, (44)

A tempest threw a rainbow in my face
so that I wanted to…