Saturday, January 24, 2009

Sarah - Women of Genesis

The Page Nibbler pick for February '09 will be Sarah: Women of Genesis by Orson Scott Card

This is what I found about it so far:

From Libreriauniversitaria:

"Sarai was a child of ten years, wise for her age but not yet a woman, when she first met Abram. He appeared before her in her father's house, filthy from the desert, tired and thirsty. But as the dirt of travel was washed from his body, the sight of him filled her heart. And when Abram promises Sarai to return in ten years to take her for his wife, her fate was sealed.
Abram kept his promise, and Sarai kept hers. They were wed, and so joined the royal house of Ur with the high priesthood of the Hebrews. So began a lifetime of great joy together, and greater peril; and with the blessing of their God, a great nation would be built around the core of their love.

Bestselling author Orson Scott Card uses his fertile imagination, and uncanny insight into human nature, to tell the story of a unique woman -- one who is beautiful, tough, smart, and resourceful in an era when women had little power, and are scarce in the historical record. Sarah, child of the desert, wife of Abraham, takes on vivid reality as a woman desirable to kings, a devoted wife, and a faithful follower of the God of Abraham, chosen to experience an incomparable miracle."

And then this piece from

"As Card tells it, Sarai (as she is called until God changes her name late in life) first meets Abram (later Abraham) when she’s 10. He has come to pay the bride price for his nephew Lot to marry Qira, Sarai’s sister. Abram tells Sarai he’ll be back to marry her in 10 more years.

Problem is, she’s been promised to the goddess Asherah as a temple worshiper for life.

When Abram does return, Sarai breaks the vow her father made to Asherah, marries Abram and goes off to lead the nomadic life. A supremely honorable woman, she wins the love of every servant in the camp -- unlike Qira, who grumbles that the upright Lot does nothing to befriend the dirty men of Sodom and increase their social standing. When Lot leaves Sodom to join Abram in the desert, Qira has no choice but to go along. She offends everyone in the camp, while the love shown to Sarai only grows.

And that’s the problem. Card makes his two major female characters too one-sided. Sarai calls to mind the tragic hero of ancient drama -- perfection on legs if it weren’t for one fatal flaw, and one flaw only. Sarai’s flaw is her nagging concern that Asherah really does exist, and the goddess is inflicting barrenness on Sarai because of the broken vow.

In all else, Sarai is perfect. She selflessly offers her handmaid, Hagar, as a gift to Abram in order for Abram to have a child by her. After Hagar’s son Ishmael is born, Sarai displays not the slightest hint of cattiness toward Hagar. Even in disagreements with Abram, Sarai is always right, and Abram has to go seek the Lord to come to the conclusions that his wife has already suggested.

Qira, on the other hand, has not one redeeming quality. She ridicules everyone and even considers her own daughters an annoyance. She’s too easy to hate.

Despite these drawbacks, the story is well-told. Abram is more multifaceted. So is Hagar, who seems at times to be Sarai’s best friend and at other times her fiercest competitor. A servant since girlhood, Hagar wants to love and be loved but is hampered by her impulse to steal every advantage.

The story moves swiftly, climaxing at several points, such as Abram and Sarai’s stay in Egypt when the pharaoh wants to take Sarai as his wife. It is a quick and interesting read.

The biggest problem I foresee for this book is winning an audience. The natural audience -- Christian and Jewish people who know and love the story of Abraham and Sarah -- may well be offended by the liberties Card takes.

Some can be excused as poetic license or convenience -- for instance, making Sarai and Qira sisters adds a heightened level of interest.

But other changes will be more offensive to people who cherish the biblical story. For instance, Card dismisses the miracle of Lot’s wife being turned into a pillar of salt. In an afterword, Card, a Mormon, explains that choice and others, probably meaning to mollify traditionalists but perhaps making the situation worse than if he had simply left his choices a mystery.

So if many Christian and Jewish readers are put off by this book, who’s left to read it? Historical fiction fans? Not necessarily. Most responsible historical fiction embeds a made-up story within a such a factual setting as a documented Civil War battle. But Card readily admits he’s not doing that here; he doesn’t have enough historical facts to work from because the story is so ancient.

And that’s the real crux of the matter. A warning for those who might hope to find in this book a responsible theological discussion, a historical record or a devotional: “Sarah” is based on the barest of facts, and her character is largely a creation of Card’s own imagination. This is an intriguing story -- with the emphasis on the word story."

So as I begin this book I am curious, eager, and cautious. I am reminded that this IS a work of FICTION, based on what we know from the bible.

I just finished reading the book about Sarah in the Canaan Trilogy by Merek Halter It will be interesting to see how Orson Scott Card's interpretation of the same character will compare.

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