Slender Reeds: Jochebed’s Hope by Texie Susan Gregory (review)

slenderreeds_gregory_barbourPublisher’s Description:

Trapped beneath 400 years of Egypt’s injustices, the Hebrew people await deliverance from generations of Egyptian slavery. But while it is still dark, God is at work. Young Jochebed is unaware the Master Weaver is preparing her to mother three formidable leaders: Miriam, Aaron, and Moses.

Shiphrah, the half-Egyptian midwife tasked to kill Hebrew male newborns, remembers childhood stories of a merciful God and cannot resist His call on her life.

Two women, each following the dangerous path God has set before them—this is their story.

◊   ◊   ◊

If you have ever wondered about biblical fiction, or been intimidated to try a biblical retelling, this is a book I would recommend starting with.  Written in a highly approachable manner, covering the eight years of Jochebed’s life prior to (and a little past, in the epilogue) placing her infant son in a basket and setting him in the Nile to be found by the Egyptian princess who would name him Moses.

Mixed in with the two storylines, those of Jochebed and the half-Egyptian midwife Shiphrah, are glimpses into the royal court and the mind of Pharaoh Ramses.  While interesting, I found myself starting to skim through much of them unless the scene included his wife or daughter.  The Egyptian scenes otherwise had a same-ness to them, and while the descriptions were well done, they lacked the warmth of the scenes in the Hebrew village.

Romance is not an emphasis in this book, and though I would have liked a more present and involved Amram, the story does not suffer from the lack of it.  In fact, this was one of the points that didn’t ring true to the historical and cultural setting when one of Jochebed’s young friends is portrayed as the pretty girl that all of the boys are after.  The arranged marriage of a barely acquainted Jochebed and the older, widowed Amram felt much more authentic.

While this is a story of faith that one expects from such retellings, and the book’s description, it is also the story of girlhood friendships and a study in motherly love and sacrifice.  And that motherly love is both received and experienced in different times and ways to each of the childhood friends.

As a debut novel, taking on the story of Moses’ mother or any biblical retelling seems to me a bit of a gamble, but here it has paid off.  I look forward to seeing more from Texie Susan Gregory.

Slender Reeds: Jochebed’s Hope by Texie Susan Gregory | Shiloh Run Press, a Barbour Imprint, Nov 2016 |paperback or ebook, 320 pages

This review refers to an ebook read courtesy of the publisher, through NetGalley, in exchange for a review.  All opinions expressed are my own.