Wednesday, June 15, 2011

A Reluctant Queen - Did Esther REALLY love the King?

'You've read it as a Biblical tale of courage.  Experience it anew as a heart-stirring love story."

This is the tag line on the back cover of A Reluctant Queen (The Love Story of Esther), written by Joan Wolf. I signed on to review this book as part of a blog tour mainly because I really like the Biblical story of Esther.  I did a Beth Moore study on Esther a couple of years ago, and it was the most enjoyable and informative study that I have done in a while.  I love how Beth Moore brings out the details and background in her studies, as well as how she acknowledges how it is obvious that men wrote the Bible, because there are so many details that a woman would include that men would never even think of.  She posed many such questions about backstory in her study that I had never really considered before in regards to Esther, and I was intrigued to see how Wolf would address the story of Esther from a fictional standpoint.

The Reluctant Queen

I have to admit--I was somewhat leery, because any time you take a given set of facts and turn them into a full-fledged story, there is so much room for compromise and error.  And, to be honest, I was skeptical that it could be pulled off in a convincing manner.  However, I found that it was very easy for me to become involved and invested in the characters very early on. Wolf did a great job of creating a history and a setting and a story for the character of Esther, as well as Mordecai, Haman, and the King.  I had no problem separating her story from the Biblical story, which was good because MANY of the basic facts were changed or deleted, including character motivations and personalities, and many more details were created or speculated about. I think this will probably be problematic for readers who only want to read a strict retelling, because that is not what this book is intended to be.  I came away being even more intrigued with the actual story of Esther, because so many of her feelings and motivations are just not included.  How did she first hear about the beauty contest for potential candidates for Queen?  Was she excited, or nervous, or repulsed when she was chosen?  What were the feelings of the eunichs assigned to guard the King's harem?  Was Esther jealous of the other women?  I still don't know the answers to these questions, but I after reading this book I have more of an appreciation of the fact that regardless of the answers, these were issues that Esther would have had to experience in one way or another.

Esther is an intriguing, important Jewish historical figure.  A Reluctant Queen provides the reader with one writer's attempt to take that figure and create a love story for her.  Was Esther in love with her husband?  Did she respect him?  I don't know.  But in this book she did, and Wolf conveyed a love story in an interesting and thought-provoking manner. A reading group discussion guide included at the end of the book provided some of the best discussion questions that I have seen with regards to the book of Esther, and bring back the focus to how important her story is for believers across time and cultures.

You can read more about A Reluctant Queen and Joan Wolf here, including the first few chapters of the book.  You can also read what others in the blog tour thought about the book, as well as enter for a chance to win a Kindle.  I am sure that are many strong opinions being expressed from all sides.

Disclaimer:  I received a complementary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson Publishers for the purpose of participating in the blog tour.  No other compensation was received.

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