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Sarah: A Novel [Paperback]

Marek Halter
3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
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Book Description

April 26 2005 Canaan Trilogy (Book 1)
Sarah’s story begins in the cradle of civilization: the Sumerian city-state of Ur, a land of desert heat, towering gardens, and immense wealth. The daughter of a powerful lord, Sarah balks at the marriage her father has planned for her. On her wedding day, she impulsively flees to the vast, empty marshes outside the city walls, where she meets a young man named Abram, son of a tribe of outsiders. Drawn to this exotic stranger, Sarah spends one night with him and reluctantly returns to her father’s house. But on her return, she secretly drinks a poisonous potion that will make her barren and thus unfit for marriage.

Many years later, Abram returns to Ur and discovers that the lost, rebellious girl from the marsh has been transformed into a splendid woman—the high priestess of the goddess Ishtar. But Sarah gives up her exalted life to join Abram’s tribe and follow the one true God, an invisible deity who speaks only to Abram. It is then that her journey truly begins.

From the great ziggurat of Ishtar to the fertile valleys of Canaan to the bedchamber of the mighty Pharaoh himself, Sarah’s story reveals an ancient world full of beauty, intrigue, and miracles.

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From Publishers Weekly

Yet another entry in the burgeoning subgenre of fictional portraits of biblical women (see, for example, Rebecca Kohn's retelling of the story of Queen Esther in The Gilded Chamber), Halter's novel (the first in a trilogy) adheres to a by now familiar formula: frank sexual and emotional revelations presented against a backdrop of burnished interiors. Halter's Sarah is born Sarai, the daughter of one of the most powerful lords of Ur. At the age of 12, she is pledged in marriage to a man she has never met, and despite the finery of her bridal chamber ("Everything was new.... Linen rakutus as smooth as a baby's skin"), she flees in distress. Dragged back to her father's house, she doses herself with an herbal concoction that leaves her barren and is made a priestess of Ishtar, Ur's goddess of war. Six years later, an encounter with her childhood love, the handsome Abram, furnishes her with the chance she's been waiting for: she escapes with him and joins his nomadic tribe. Her contentment is short-lived, because Abram is called by God to leave his tribe and set out for a new land, whereupon the familiar (but freely adapted) Bible story unfolds. The misery Sarah feels at being barren, the indecent love her nephew Lot expresses for her, her encounter with Pharaoh and her quarrel with Hagar, the slave woman who gives Abram a child, shape the novel's second half. Halter isn't afraid to present headstrong Sarah as bitter in her old age, and his complex portrait of the biblical matriarch gives this solid if predictable novel a dash of freshness.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School–Halter offers a retelling of the Old Testament story of Abraham and Sarah; the birth of their son, Isaac; and the creation of the Jewish people. Before Sarai can become Sarah, she must first be a teenager. The daughter of a lord of Ur, she is frightened by her first menstrual blood and runs away from an arranged marriage and meets a nomad boy named Abram. Even though they spend only one night together, she feels an intense connection with him, but she cannot imagine a future with someone so different from herself and returns to her father's house. Still frightened of becoming a wife and mother, she purchases herbs that leave her infertile and is dedicated as a Priestess of Ishtar. Years later, the two are reunited and marry. Readers will find the story compelling, especially Sarai's decision to run away from an arranged marriage. As a newly married wife who loves her husband but is infertile, her relationships with other women in the tribe and her subsequent jealousy are believable. This is a good choice for readers who enjoyed Anita Diamant's The Red Tent (St. Martin's, 1997) or who are interested in historical fiction from a feminist perspective.–Maureen L. Hartman, Minneapolis Public Library
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic entertaining historical novel. June 21 2004
I so much enjoyed "Sarah" that I read it in twenty-four hours. The day before I read the "Red Tent". If you are searching for a historically accurate portrayal of the story of Sarah and Abraham you won't find it here. What you will find is an entertaining historical novel focusing on the women in biblical times. The male author does a really good job (contrary to one reviewers opinion) of writing in a famale voice. I felt he understood the trials and tribulations of women at that time very well. This book is about Sarah so to say it would have been better if it had been written about another character is ludicrous. The ongoing debate between reviewers about the relationship between Sarah and Abraham is also ludicrous given that there is no way to know exactly if they were related or not. The Bible is filled with historical inaccuracies and exaggerations as it was written by men who had an agenda of their very own to protect. The point I'm trying to make here is that this is a fictionalized version of the story of Sarah and Abraham. It is enjoyable, fast paced and gives an overview of life at that time. If you are looking for biblical truths you won't find it here and no amount of arguing will change that.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Could have been much better June 15 2004
I was disappointed in the quality of this book. As many other reviewers have stated, the bible is quite clear on the fact that Abraham and Sarah are half siblings. (genesis 20:12, look it up in your family bible or something.) However, the book itself did not meet the standards set by some other excellent biblical fiction. SARAH didn't explain and expand on the story of Sarah and Abraham, it rewrote it. The worst was when Mr. Halter reworded famous biblical dialogue, completely ridding the story of its biblical feel. '
Mr. Halter really focuses on Sarah to an extreme, and I felt like Abraham got left out. Issac wasn't even a character. He doesn't appear to the epilouge, and is shown only as being an object of happiness to Sarah, not as a living child with a personality.
The binding of Issac was at the very end, as if the author realized that he had left it out and needed to squeeze it into two pages at the end. (Most of this was Sarah screaming at God about motherhood or something like was rather strange and I only skimmed it to get the general gist.)
I would not call this biblical fiction. If you want light, femenist entertainment based loosely on the bible, go ahead and buy it. However, I don't think that the femenist/modern reworked story is worth your money.
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5.0 out of 5 stars beautifully written thoughtful novel June 14 2004
By A Customer
I really enjoyed this novel--it's not only entertaining as an afternoon read, it gives the reader a lot to think about without ever being didactic.
Ignore the reviewers who argue over whether Sarah was Abraham's sister (they had a child together, so I'm guessing that unless the Bible sanctions incest, they were not. And honestly people, did you even bother to READ the book?)
This is a very well-written book that takes a look at the life and times of an influential woman, without ever losing sight of her essential humanity and the beauty of her spirit. Sarah's constant wrangling with God's will and with whether or not to believe in an invisible God speaks a great deal to what all of us deal with in our own lives, even if we don't go to church or synagogue regularly. It's also a terrific love story between a very intelligent, mystical, headstrong man, Abraham, and his bold, intelligent, practical wife, Sarah. I am glad to see a book that celebrates the love a man can have for a woman who is not only beautiful, but who challenges his worldviews and acts as a total partner with him in his journey to find God. I highly recomment this book to anyone who likes a good novel, especially a historical one.
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Marek Halter's SARAH is already a bestseller in France and has been translated into ten languages. The debut of SARAH in the United States will lend credence to Halter's sensitive treatment of women in the Bible. His plans for the two subsequent books in the trilogy are the stories of Zipporah and Lilah, lesser known than Sarah, wife of Abraham, but with tremendous impact on the shaping of society.
SARAH is the story of civilization's first rebellious teenager who became one of the world's most powerful women. An interview with the author reveals that he sees his women as those "beside," not "behind" great men. The book emphasizes Sarah's working side by side with Abraham to create a life filled with his religious beliefs. Sarah was not a believer in Abraham's God until late, after her early mistakes came back to haunt her unfulfilled life.
SARAH begins in the region now known as Iraq, the cradle of history, between the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers. The region was then known as Sumeria and the city-state where Sarai lived was known as Ur. She is the daughter of a powerful lord of Ur, a beautiful child who comes to womanhood in the first chapter. Her father arranges a marriage with a suitable man when she is twelve years old. The young girl is terrified of the prospects of the marriage bed and flees. Overnight, she runs from safety in the walled city to unknown terrors beyond it. On a riverbank she meets Abram, a poor but exotic member of a nomadic tribe. She spends the night with him and longs for his kiss. But soldiers discover her in the morning and return her to her father's house.
Halter has a unique way of entering his heroine's mindset and allowing the reader to see and feel the turmoil swimming in her head.
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Most recent customer reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Just O.K.
While I do agree with the fellow reviewer who found this book hard to finish, I feel as though I should point out one thing. It is fiction written for fictions sake. Read more
Published on July 10 2004
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting though with a strange rythm
Marek Halter, following what is quickly becoming a flood of biblical fiction, here begins what promises to be the first of a trilogy telling the stories of several women from... Read more
Published on May 30 2004
2.0 out of 5 stars Sarah: A Novel
Barbara Cartland writes The Red Tent. I would put this book in the romantic fiction genre rather than literary. Read more
Published on May 27 2004
1.0 out of 5 stars Sarah really WAS Abraham's half sister: Genesis 20:12
I must correct the previous reviewer: Sarah really was Abraham's half sister. Abraham pretends that Sarah is his sister twice. Read more
Published on May 22 2004
4.0 out of 5 stars Sarah WAS NOT Abraham's half-sister!!
I am just buying the book now, but I must clear up the mistake of the above one * reviewer. Sarah was NOT Abraham's half-sister. Read more
Published on May 21 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars Very intelligent--and entertaining--reading...
I hate the idea that really "literary" novels have to be hard to read, so I applaud Marek Halter and his publisher for bringing out a novel that's thoughtful and... Read more
Published on May 17 2004
1.0 out of 5 stars Read the bible before writing biblical fiction, please.
The problem with this book is that it is simply NOT TRUE. In the Bible, Sarah is Abrahams half-sister. It actually SAYS THIS IN THE BIBLE. Read more
Published on May 16 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars A true woman's journey, beautifully written...
I was a bit skeptical about whether I would enjoy a novel based on one of the characters of the Bible, but I was really moved by Sarah's story. Read more
Published on May 15 2004
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