Monday, October 31, 2016
Shadow of the Storm
As she lives with the other Hebrews, as well as some non-Hebrews who joined them in their exodus from Egypt—at the base of Mt. Sinai, Shira has made herself content with following in her mother’s footsteps to become a weaver—even though she doesn’t particularly care for it or have an aptitude for it. However, when a chance comes for her to learn to be a midwife, she can’t get the idea out of her head, and when she helps her brother’s handsome friend Ayal deliver a newborn lamb, the idea that perhaps bringing new life into the world is what Yahweh created her for is enough to get her to defy her mother’s wishes and start training with Reva, the Levite midwife. She slowly starts to become more confident in her skills, despite the scorn she receives from Dvorah, the midwife trainee that Reva has paired her up with, and also starts to hope that, in spite of what she has long believed—that she will never marry or have a family—that she might have a future with Ayal. But then tragedy strikes and a heartbroken Shira retreats, going back to weaving and trying to avoid Ayal as much as she can. Meanwhile, Dvorah, who was widowed when the Levite men, following Mosheh’s orders, killed those who rebelled against Yahweh in a night of debauchery, needs to find a way to provide for her son, and she will do anything to escape her brother-in-law—and if it hurts Shira in the process, so much the better.
Wow. This is another incredible book from Connilyn Cossette. I loved it. There were times when it was painful to read—because I felt so connected to Shira that her pain was real to me. It was so hard to read about her past, about how her mother discouraged her from following her dream of becoming a midwife, of her pain, confusion, and guilt at a delivery gone terribly wrong and the fallout from it, etc. It was hard to read about her interactions with Dvorah; although the passages where she was the narrator allowed me to see WHY she did what she did—and how she’d come to be the bitter, cruel person she was—it was hard to see innocent, kind Shira take the brunt of Dvorah’s anger and pain. The fact that Shira and her feelings were so real to me is a testament to what a great writer Cossette is. As painful as Shira’s path was, I enjoyed being able to feel the beginnings of hope again, and then forgiveness, and love, along with her as she continued on her journey.
Although we didn’t get to see the story from Ayal’s point of view, I liked how he was a flawed character who made some pretty serious mistakes but also could experience forgiveness both from Shira and from Yahweh; the fact that he wasn’t the perfect man made him more believable and in some ways, more endearing, and of course I loved the message of forgiveness and becoming new through God’s grace and forgiveness. I also appreciated the way Cossette conveyed that message—it was fairly subtle but still powerful.
Besides the incredible character development, especially with Shira, Cossette does a terrific job of depicting the day-to-day life as the Hebrews camped at Mt. Sinai—from the preparations of the tabernacle, with required immense amounts of materials (like cloth that had to be dyed and woven), to the petty arguments and jealousies and larger disagreements between tribes and between the Hebrews and non-Hebrews and between family members—were also so well written. I’d never thought before about what daily life for these people would have been like, or about how the people might have struggled to get along with one another, so that was both eye-opening and totally believable. And the way Cossette wove those details into the story, without dragging down the plot, again shows her skills as a writer.
It’s hard to convey how well-written this book is. The plot is so absorbing and Shira’s journey is both painful and beautiful. The characters are so real, as is the setting, and the language also served to pull me into the story. Solid five-star book here.
Although this is the second book in a series, you don’t actually have to read the first one to be able to follow the story. (But you SHOULD read the first one because it’s a great book, too!)
I read a copy available through NetGalley. All opinions are my own.