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5 recent novels based on narratives found within familiar Old Testament stories

SHARE 5 recent novels based on narratives found within familiar Old Testament stories

These five books, including ones from authors with local ties and local publishers, share a novelization of an Old Testament story and a historical perspective.

"THE ELEVENTH BROTHER: A Novel of Joseph in Egypt," by Rachel K. Wilcox, Deseret Book, $17.99, 332 pages (f)

Joseph was always frustrated with his brothers’ lack of affection and respect. Although he eventually gained immeasurable wealth and the trust of the most powerful man in Egypt, memories of his earlier life and betrayal continue to haunt him.

When famine brings his brothers back into his life, Joseph is faced with wanting to seek revenge for their past deeds and wondering how much they have changed. As he mentally battles between mercy and justice, readers learn more about the events that changed him from an innocent boy of the desert into the clever man entrusted with keeping a nation fed during a famine in the historical novel "The Eleventh Brother: A Novel of Joseph in Egypt."

It’s obvious the author, Rachel K. Wilcox, has done her research. But the wealth of information about ancient Egyptian rituals and beliefs she brings into her novel, while interesting at times, can also cause the book’s pace to lag. Although most readers are familiar with the ending, reading this novel can nevertheless be an enjoyable experience.

“The Eleventh Brother” has clean language, very little violence and minimal romance. Accounts from the Bible dealing with death, rape and murder are dealt with briefly and circumspectly. This is a book that will entertain adults but can also be given with a clear conscience to teenagers.

Wilcox received her undergraduate degree from Brigham Young University and is currently in her last year of law school at Stanford University.

— Elizabeth Reid

"EVE: In the Beginning," by H.B. Moore, Mirror Press, e-book $3.99, 175 pages (f)

Utah author H.B. Moore took a risk in her fictionalization of one of the oldest, most well-known stories there is in her recent novel "Eve: In the Beginning."

Moore's goal seems to be to breathe life into humanity's first parents and make them relatable and sympathetic. Expounding on a time and place so different from current and relatively recent history, with literally only two humans, no technology whatsoever, and practically no knowledge, the reader is up for an unusual experience in this novel.

While built on something of an odd premise, the novel does raise interesting ideas to think about. Partway through the novel, Adam and Eve are in their first months outside of the garden and discover cold, pain, desire, and hunger for the first time. They are forced to discover for themselves every aspect of survival.

They have to learn about the importance of agency, how to overcome Satan, how to deal with grief and sorrow, and how to communicate with God in a fallen world. It makes for some intriguing thoughts on a unique aspect of the first parents and and people's purpose in this world.

The novel has no swearing and includes only vague references to sex between a married couple and mild violence involved with hunting animals.

"Eve" is a 2014 Whitney Award finalist in the historical category. The Whitney Awards recognize novels by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

— Michelle Garrett

"THE COMING FLOOD, Volume One: Enoch in the City of Adam," by J.L. Thompson, Leicester Bay Books, $17.95, 280 pages (f)

Author J.L. Thompson must have his own expanded Bible as he seems to know details and characters extraordinarily well in the historical novel "The Coming Flood, Volume One: Enoch in the City of Adam," due out March 15.

"Enoch in the City of Adam" provides not only a look at the first 1,000 years after Father Adam and Mother Eve started their family, it explores the birth of evil and the mindset of those who chose to follow the Prince of Darkness.

Sobering, challenging and inventive — depending on how the reader interprets his or her own scriptures — this story considers how the first people on the planet might have thought and reacted to their challenges.

The language is clean. The violence is mostly in blows and battle. However, there's some seduction and some fairly mind-blowing lustful ceremonial rites, including the casual use of young women. There's liberal drug use among the followers of Satan.

It's a creative story written so it doesn't come off as stilted even though it addresses the long lives of those in this society and their steady but slow progress developing water systems and weapons while Cainites and giants threaten their peace.

Thompson is pretty good at this, making what could easily be a clunky story into something readable. He previously wrote for BYU's Law Review magazine and is now the editor-in-chief of a ghost-writing company.

For the strong-hearted and open-minded, this could be an illuminating series.

— Sharon Haddock

"CHARIOTS TO JORDAN," by E. James Harrison, Covenant Communications, $16.99, 256 pages (f)

Salt Lake City native E. James Harrison takes the story of Naaman’s healing from leprosy — 19 verses from 2 Kings 5 — and turns it into a novel in “Chariots to Jordan.”

Naaman is captain over the Syrian armies, but he has leprosy. It’s a “little maid” in his household, a captive from Israel, who suggests he should go to the prophet in Israel and be healed. It becomes a political conundrum for the kings involved, too.

Harrison uses the healing as the climax of the story and focuses on the back stories of the characters for most of the book.

He switches back and forth between Naaman’s story, his conquests as leader of the army and his efforts to hide his leprosy as it becomes increasingly difficult to do so, and the story of the spunky maid Gili and her family, along with how she knew about the prophet and his ability to heal. He also inserts some of the travels of the prophet Elisha.

This entertaining and emotional novel certainly shows a possibility of how a faithful little maid could have ended up in the house of a Syrian army captain.

Knowing the scriptural story, it is easy to wonder at times how Harrison was going to connect the storyline to the biblical account, as “Chariots to Jordan” starts many years before the healing in the river Jordan.

There is no swearing or sexual content and there is some described battle violence, including deaths.

— Christine Rappleye

"ESTHER: Royal Beauty," by Angela Hunt, Bethany House, $14.99, 345 pages (f)

Hadassah, a young Jewish orphan, is raised by her Uncle Mordecai and Aunt Miriam in the shadows of the palace. Hadassah dreams of the frivolous lifestyle of palace living. As Hadassah grows into womanhood, Mordecai arranges a marriage prospect according to Jewish tradition as Angela Hunt spins a captivating novel rich with historical context in "Esther: Royal Beauty," based on the biblical story.

When King Xerxes of Persia dethrones Queen Vashti for disobedience, a search is conducted throughout the empire for beautiful maidens. Hadassah is kidnapped while traveling with her fiancé to Jerusalem to marry. Not wanting to reveal her heritage as a Jew, she gives the false name of Esther to all who ask.

Recognizing a certain eunuch, who is a friend to Mordecai, Hadassah is able to send a message to her uncle to let him know of her whereabouts. Hadassah then becomes Esther as she is trained, pampered and taught in the ways of female palace conduct.

The night of the King's arrival in Susa, the eunuch sends for Esther to entertain the king. A maid trips and spills gravy all over Esther’s dress as the king watches from a distance. This provides King Xerxes and Esther with an opportunity to laugh as Esther wins his favor.

As she begins to settle into palace living, her faith is put to the test as she strives to save her people from Haman’s edict.

There is no swearing or other foul language. There is a moderate level of violence in the novel due to King Xerxes going to war, along with Queen Vashti dismembering another woman to get revenge. Sexual content is hinted at as Esther is summoned to the king’s bedchambers, but nothing is described.

Hunt has published over one hundred books and has won many industry awards. She and her husband live in Florida.

— Micah Klug