Sunday, January 21, 2018

"Isaiah's Daughter" by Mesu Andrews

While biblical fiction isn't normally one of my chosen genres, I've really enjoyed some of Lynn Austin and Connilynn Cossette's books. When I heard about Mesu Andrews' Isaiah's Daughter, I was immediately intrigued by this story of a captive who would become queen. And, for better or worse, I'm not well versed enough in Old Testament history to know what would happen in the story, so I figured it would all be pretty much brand new to me!

Gifted Bible teacher and award-winning author Mesu Andrews reaches into the pages of Biblical prophecy and Hebrew tradition to unearth a rags-to-royalty story of the devastated orphan, Ishma—meaning “desolation”—in Isaiah’s Daughter (Jan. 16, 2018, WaterBrook).  At just 5 years old, Ishma’s life crumbles around her when Israelite soldiers violently kill her family and take her into captivity. Upon her release, the royal prophet Isaiah welcomes her into his home where she meets Prince Hezekiah (Hezi)—a boy who has also experienced great tragedy. Ishma and Hezi bond in their suffering, and as they grow in age, so does their love for each other. Aware of their developing relationship, Isaiah adopts Ishma as his daughter and presents her with a new name that will qualify her to marry royalty—Hephzibah (Zibah), meaning “delight of the Lord.” Hezi and Zibah marry, but after difficult times of barrenness, Assyrian aggression, disease and challenging prophecies from Isaiah, Zibah remains trapped by fear. Can she entrust everything to the only One who gives life and delivers both a captive heart and a desperate nation?

It turns out that I was more familiar with some aspects of Isaiah's Daughter than I thought I would be. It's full of Isaiah's prophecies, many of which were fulfilled in Jesus, so many of these prophecies were familiar. But it was so interesting to learn about the time and the circumstances of the prophecies, and to see how Isaiah and others may have expected them to be fulfilled.

Isaiah's Daughter tells the story of Ishma, a young girl from Bethlehem who was orphaned and taken captive after Israeli soldiers invaded. When the captives are freed, Ishma and her friend Yaira are taken in by the prophet Isaiah and his family, and Ishma's story soon intertwines with that of Prince Hezekiah. Isaiah and his wife legally adopt Ishma and rename her Hephzibah, and she marries Hezekiah after he becomes king—becoming Queen of Judah and the wife of Judah's most righteous king.

As author Mesu Andrews points out in this blog post, much of Isaiah's Daughter is highly fictionalized (though some is based on Jewish tradition), as the Bible is largely silent on Hephzibah. But seeing how things could have been is completely fascinating, and I can't wait to get to the passages in Isaiah, 2 Kings, and 2 Chronicles that these events are based on! (This year, I'm following a chronological Bible reading schedule, so I'm currently only at Jacob and Esau in Genesis 🙂.)

Each chapter begins with relevant verses, mainly from Isaiah and 2 Kings, and that helped ground the story, as well as foreshadow where it was going. There's also a character list at the beginning of the book, but honestly, I didn't refer to it once. That's a testament to Andrews' writing and how clearly her characters were described, as when I first opened the book and saw the nearly three pages of characters, I wondered how on earth I'd keep everyone straight!

The story mainly focuses on three characters: Ishma/Zibah, Hezekiah, and Isaiah. Their stories are messy, and I found myself aching for and angry with each one at different points in the novel. Through it all, though, one thing stands out: God's care for His people.

As I read this book, I couldn't help but think of Francine Rivers' Mark of the Lion series, not because of the time period (Mark of the Lion is set in AD 70, while Isaiah's Daughter begins in 732 BC) but because of how I felt when reading it—like I couldn't put it down, yet I was almost afraid to keep reading because of what might happen next.

What it boils down to is this: Isaiah's Daughter is a completely captivating look at what happened—and what could have happened—during the reigns of King Ahaz and King Hezekiah. Andrews is currently planning a sequel that will cover Hephzibah's son Manasseh's reign. It's going to be a long wait! 5 stars.

Read an excerpt of the first chapter here.
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Mesu Andrews’ deep understanding of and love for God’s Word brings the biblical world alive for her readers. She and her husband, Roy, live in a log cabin snuggled into the beautiful Appalachian Mountains with their dog, Zeke. The Andrews’ have two married daughters and a small tribe of grandkids. Mesu loves movies, football, waterfalls, and travel.

Biblical fiction is her favorite genre to read and write. Her first novel, Love Amid the Ashes (Revell, 2011), tells the story of Job and won the 2012 ECPA Book of the Year for a Debut Author. Love’s Sacred Song (Revell, 2012) relates the poetic Song of Solomon in story form, and Love in a Broken Vessel (Revell, 2013) sets the story of Hosea and Gomer in biblical Israel. The Shadow of Jezebel (Revell, 2014) displays God’s sovereignty over Jezebel’s daughter, Queen Athaliah. The Pharaoh’s Daughter (Waterbrook/Multnomah, 2015), the first in The Treasures of the Nile series, unveils Moses’ early years through the eyes of his Egyptian mother, and Miriam (Waterbrook/Multnomah, 2016), the second book in the series, introduces Yahweh’s prophetess during the ten plagues and the Exodus as she struggles to trust this God she doesn’t understand. In January 2018, Isaiah’s Daughter: A Novel of Prophets and Kings (Waterbrook/Multnomah) reveals the little-known personal life of the prophet Isaiah and introduces readers to his captivating daughter.

Connect with Mesu: Website // Facebook // Twitter // Pinterest // Instagram // Goodreads

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

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