Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Book Review: Love Amid the Ashes

Release Date: March 2011
Publisher: Revell
Pages: 411 pages
Genre: Christian Historical
Goodreads Summary: Readers often think of Job sitting on the ash heap, his life in shambles. But how did he get there? What was Job's life like before tragedy struck? What did he think as his world came crashing down around him? And what was life like after God restored his wealth, health, and family? Through painstaking research and a writer's creative mind, Mesu Andrews weaves an emotional and stirring account of this well-known story told through the eyes of the women who loved him. Drawing together the account of Job with those of Esau's tribe and Jacob's daughter Dinah, Love Amid the Ashes breathes life, romance, and passion into the classic biblical story of suffering and steadfast faith.

I’m a huge fan of Christian historical fiction and love books based on people from the Bible. It takes a lot of creativity for a writer to take small bits of history and weave entire stories out of them and when it’s done well, it’s really enjoyable. Most times, the story is great and completely believable, other times if falls short and misses the mark. Unfortunately, Love Amid the Ashes missed the mark for me.

A story based on the Biblical account of Job is great material to work with. Mesu Andrews makes good use of the potions of Job’s story that we are very familiar with but Job is not really the main character in this book, Dinah is. Honestly, this surprised me as I thought the story would focus on Job more than anyone else.

Dinah is Jacob’s only daughter, the one who, according to scripture, was raped by Prince Shechem and whose brothers took revenge by killing the prince and all the men in the city. Andrews’ book puts a different spin on the situation. Instead of being raped, Shechem approached 15-year-old Dinah, proposed to her and the two eloped, all on the same day. In Love Amid the Ashes, Dinah was actually in love with her husband, her brothers slaughtered him and she was labeled and an evil temptress by everyone who heard the rumors. This is the first portion of the story that I had an issue with. I have a hard time believing that with the culture she lived in, this girl, with Jacob for a father and those 12 men for brothers, would be crazy enough to run off with a man from a different culture and religion who she had just met.

Now an adult, Dinah is pretty much unmarriageable because of her reputation but her grandfather’s dying request is that she become the second wife of Job’s oldest son. Job, being a distant cousin and a faithful man who trusts God decides to honor the request and takes Dinah on a lengthy trip to his family’s home.

The middle part of the book does focus on Job and his trials including his wife’s inappropriate relationship with another man, her idolatry and a host of other things, but the point of the story is muddled with the fact that Dinah is constantly in the picture, people treat her like a whore, a bad luck charm and the reason why calamity has befallen Job in the first place. I also have an issue with the fact that Dinah’s looks (she is tall and thin with blond hair and blue eyes) are mentioned several times, especially the blond hair. Her description sounds more like European supermodel than Middle Eastern woman but maybe that’s just me.

This book also has a lot of secondary characters, many of them I thought were unnecessary and the extra made this book way too long. Another thing I found surprising is the author’s extremely unflattering portrayal of twin brothers and patriarchs of their families, Jacob and Esau. I know Jacob did some conniving things but I would like to think that circumstances in his life, including physically wrestling with God, humbled and softened him. Not according to Andrews. She writes them as two of the biggest jerks and meanest fathers ever.  

Love Amid the Ashes is not a bad book by any means and this review may be coming out harsher than I intend it.  There is a very good message in the book that regardless of your past is, after you seek God’s forgiveness, you are free from the shame and embarrassment of whatever you did. But Job did not sin against God and so there is the second message that you should praise and trust God in all your circumstance.  The story just felt like several books mashed together and there is too much going on. Most reviewers seem to love it but it just was not the book for me.

Content: Kissing, some violence.

My Rating: Just Fine


Asheley (@BookwormAsheley) said...

Hmm. I have this book but I haven't had a chance to read it.

I LOVE LOVE LOVE the Christian historical books that teach me more about the people of way back then, because oftentimes the Bible only gives us a couple of verses from a life that often was years or even hundreds of years (back then) long. So I love to learn what I can, ya know? I am a little bit wary of the ones that take great liberties and change up stories TOO MUCH. But still, I like to learn what I can from them because I always hope that there will be an underlying message there for me.

This sounds like a good book and the cover is pretty. I have a special interest in the women of the Bible, good and bad, because I am nothing but a work in progress every day. One of these days I'll get to this one, but I wish that the author would've taken *less* liberties with the story.

Great, honest, informative review! Thank you so much for these thoughts. :)

Emily said...

Hi there! If you liked Mesu Andrews' "Love's Sacred Song" or "Love Amid the Ashes" you'll love her new book "Love in a Broken Vessel." Check out her book trailer and promotional giveaway celebrating the book's upcoming release! http://www.mesuandrews.com/contests


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