Now, ladies and gents, time for that book review that was supposed to come back in November!
The daughter of missionaries, Hannah Pratt dreams of starting a school for the Bedouin clan with whom she spent her childhood. After completing her education in the United States, she returns to the desert to pursue that dream—only to learn her parents have been receiving threats from within the community they serve. As the danger escalates, Hannah must decide how far she’ll go to stay faithful to a calling that could cost her everything.
As sheikh, Karim Al-Amir feels the weight of responsibility as the leader of his people. When a mysterious illness ravages the clan’s flocks and threatens to destroy their centuries-old way of life, some of his people believe the American doctors and their daughter, his childhood friend, are to blame. Karim must do something to keep Hannah and her parents safe—even if the only solution is to be found within marriage vows.
In a society where the line is drawn between us and them, where Christianity is outlawed and foreigners suspect, will Karim and Hannah’s union heal wounds . . . or inflict a final, fatal blow?
Old Testament history meets Twenty-first Century tensions in this compassionate, tender inspirational romance.
First off, let me say, “Get a load of that cover!” 🙂 I don’t know what it is exactly about it, but I love it. It’s just so pretty and eye catching to me!
As Sarah Monzon tends to do with her writing, The Esther Paradigm is filled with amazing imagery that takes you straight to the scene, feeling the burning sand beneath your sandals and the heat pressing in against you. Beyond the scene that is set, the story has a very interesting premise in that it is modeled after the story of Esther in the Bible.
I’ll start with some of my reservations about the story and end with the things I loved. By the way, there may be what some would consider to be some spoilery (yes, I made that word up) type things in this review.
At the beginning of the book, groundwork has to be laid in a way that leads to Hannah, the female lead and a Christian, saying yes to marrying a man who is not a Christian. He is not only not a Christian, but is a religious Muslim, though not in the jihadist sense. This part of the book gave me pause. Hannah makes such a decision a little too quickly and without enough consideration, in my opinion. I understand that the decision must be made to lead to what needs to happen in the book, but it was still troublesome to see a Christian so easily and quickly make the decision to marry a non Christian. I wish this part had been developed a little further, showing Hannah agonizing over such a serious decision a bit more. And though, I know it had to happen for the storyline, it was still unsettling to see her marry a non Christian.
In my reservations, I must also mention that I was not overly fond of Hannah as the book progressed. When she is first introduced, I liked her character, but it felt like after she married Karim, she suddenly became very insecure whereas up to that point she had seemed confident. There is a particular scene and point in the couple’s relationship after they get married that was frustrating to me to see unfold. Hannah refuses to do something that she needs to do and Karim coaxes and pleads and tries to go about gently helping her see the need to do what must be done, but she, very childishly, will have nothing to do with it. This leads to some hurtful things being said by Karim. While what is said is indeed hurtful and should not have been said, I honestly felt more frustration with Hannah over the situation than I did Karim. He tried so hard to be so careful about how he approached her about it and she just wouldn’t listen to wisdom, insisting on foolish behavior that could very well have resulted in a detrimental situation to her.
I also did not enjoy Hannah’s tendency to be so caught up in her insecurity—so much so that she couldn’t see beyond it at times to truly see how much is weighing on her husband’s shoulders and how her own behavior toward him is not helping that weight to be lifted and is causing him unneeded grief. There were times it felt to me as though she was not really invested in knowing what her husband was facing, in what he was dealing with, and in supporting him. She is just seemed so unaware of anything beyond her own struggle and insecurity at times.
Nor did I like how she refused to communicate with him at times. She wanted to stick her head in the sand and not talk about or deal with her problems with Karim. I will be honest here and say that I do not do well with characters who refuse to communicate or who refuse to face their problems. You could probably say it is a personal pet peeve of mine. No marriage or really any other type of relationship will last long when someone behaves as Hannah did for a good portion of the book. I will say that Hannah had begun to change by the end of the book. I think I just wished for more change, a little sooner.
Okay, enough with all that. Moving on to the good stuff! As I said before, Ms. Monzon has a way with words in laying out the setting of a book in such a way that takes you there. The Esther Paradigm is no exception. I really appreciate this aspect of her writing. Many times an author tries to set the scene, but it just feels like drudgery reading through the descriptive parts of the book. Not so with Ms. Monzon’s work.
I really liked Karim—his leadership abilities, his confidence, his care and concern for his people. You can feel the struggle and the battle with him as he worries over the future of his people. He truly had the heart of a king who loves his people. I loved his care for Hannah as well and how they were friends before, that they had known each other as children and had a connection even then. He treats Hannah with such care and tenderness. He is a swoon worthy hero in many ways.
I appreciated Hannah’s family’s long term ministry among the tribe. I believe it could be seen as an example of what Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 9:19-22. I love how they lived among these people, helping them medically and in as many other ways as they could, while living out the love of Christ before them. They did so in such away that respected the people while also not swaying in their own belief in God, in Jesus, the Messiah. They became a part of the people as much as they could (without turning from God) to witness to these people, respecting them by respecting their culture. This can be a tricky thing to do, but I believe it was done well in many ways in this book.
I know Ms. Monzon must have done a lot of research to show the tribe’s culture the way that she did. And she did a lovely job of setting the scene of their culture and way of life. I very much enjoyed the wedding preparation scenes and the joy and revelry portrayed and I appreciated the glimpses into the ways and workings of the nomadic tribe.
I also enjoyed the dual point of view, going back and forth between Hannah’s and Karim’s minds. I like having that extra insight into seeing how they are perceiving what’s happening around them. And while Hannah was not always my favorite character as mentioned above, I did enjoy the romance between her and Karim.
While I did have some reservations about some things and what could be termed as pet peeves here and there, overall, I enjoyed the journey and the story of The Esther Paradigm.
Sorry for what appears to be an overly long review now that I look back at it. I tend to be a pretty wordy person.😬
**I received a copy of this book from the author and have chosen to review it. My opinions are my own.