by Angela Elwell Hunt (Goodreads Author)When an ambitious tyrant threatens genocide against the Jews, an inexperienced young queen must take a stand for her people.
When Xerxes, king of Persia, issues a call for beautiful young women, Hadassah, a Jewish orphan living in Susa, is forcibly taken to the palace of the pagan ruler. After months of preparation, the girl known to the Persians as Esther wins the king's heart and a queen's crown. But because her situation is uncertain, she keeps her ethnic identity a secret until she learns that an evil and ambitious man has won the king's permission to exterminate all Jews--young and old, powerful and helpless. Purposely violating an ancient Persian law, she risks her life in order to save her people...and bind her husband's heart.
My Review: 6/10
When I finished reading this book, I felt... confused. I'm familiar with being bored with a book, being obsessed and savoring a book, being angry or disillusioned with a book, being critical and a million other expectations and resultant reactions. I was confused after finishing Esther because I felt none of these things.
Let me start by saying, I have only read the New Testament and Genesis. While I've heard many other famous Bible stories at small groups, bible studies and church, this is not one of them. I've heard of Esther, that she was one of the few female books in the Bible and showed that women are not overlooked in God's plan. I've heard her referred to as a courageous queen. But that is all. So I had zero preconceived notions about her.
The book was kind of slow moving for a while and didn't really seem to say much, just driving in the fact that Esther did not identify with her fellow Jews. And that she was obsessed with beauty but also somehow in denial of her own.
Things didn't really get suspenseful until Haman's arrival. That is resolved quickly enough and at that point, you're pretty much at the end of the book, where you're given a kind of vague, yet somehow loaded, epilogue.
The abrupt ending without resolution in some key areas (did she ever have kids? I think not, but it didn't really definitively say. What was her continued relationship like with the future king, her stepson, Artaxerxes, as he grew older? Actually, what was her relationship like with husband after all the drama was Haman was over? Was she back in favor? Was she interesting again? Did things ever change?) left me reeling. Given that Ms. Hunt was working with Biblical record of real people, I guess she couldn't determine these things, and I respect that, but she made me care about these people and I felt like the story was just starting to get interesting when it stopped.
At the end of the book, all I could think was, "What was the point?" I don't think I've ever read a book and not known, by the end of it, what the author was driving at. In fact, in this genre, I'm used to knowing pretty much exactly what to expect. What was the purpose of this story? Was it her relationship with her husband? Was it learning to accept and embrace (assumed) barrenness? Was it her personal relationship with God? Was it her throwing off a cloak of vanity and opening herself to God's plans for her? Was it simply to save a people she had never really considered -hers- before? Was it to overcome the evil of Haman (judging by my Kindle, this particular part only occupied about 5% of her story)? All of these things were touched on for a short time, never becoming the focal point of the story.
I wonder if I would have had a totally different reading experience if I was already familiar with Esther's story and/or had read it in the Bible. If nothing else, this book is prompting me to do just that.