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  • Sarah
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4.6 out of 5 stars
43
Sarah
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on December 7, 2016
Card paints a very believable picture of life in those times. Super read.
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on July 15, 2016
Amazing description of this biblic character.
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on January 21, 2001
Unlike what one other reviewer has written here, I believe this book is very much in keeping with almost all other novels Card has written: characters of strength and integrity committed to some grand cause, sometimes misunderstanding each other, coming to equality in relationships by the end. Of course, a little politicking/social maneuvering is thrown in as well, as well as historicity of customs and action (oooh, how racy =were= those Egyptians, anyway? One wonders if today's fashions of tight Tshirts and bun-hugging jeans, though not as translucent as the Egyptian linens, would have been found objectionable by the modest desert nomads?)
While Card adds details not found in the original Biblical source (and he also admits to adding some details that are not found in the Old Testament, but are in Mormon scripture), he also edits the story to sew up some plot holes - not unreasonable, considering, as with many of the Genesis stories, there is more than one source (checking my Bible, it mentions that both the Eloist and Yahwist sources both contribute (so named because of their words for God - either Eloi or Yahweh)). One sees the repitition of the device of the man claiming his wife to be his sister in the Bible - not only twice in the case of Abraham and Sarah, but also in Isaac's story. Many of these plot changes may irritate a Biblical fundamentalist, but they are not too glaring. I had to go back to the Bible to figure out what was changed -- the story pretty much agreed with the tale I remember hearing as a child.
However, the best part of this book was Sarah herself. Like most women in Card's fiction, she gets to be a strong person in her own right - not pretending to be less intelligent or skilled than she is, not bowing under men's authority or words simply because they are men. People might complain about the less attractive female characters Qira and Hagar, but he also gives these women autonomous characters. They do not blend into the background, but are shown as captains of their own souls, even if they turn out to have made poor choices.
Most importantly with Sarah, Card shows how a person of faith lives when they do not get to hear God's voice directly. Abraham gets to hear God speak, so he is sure in knowing that he shall be the ancestor of a great people, he is sure that he shall win military conflict, he is sure of eventual success. Sarah must hear the words of God through others, and in a world that offers many gods, she doubts and is hurt by the conflict between her doubt and her faith. I see this book as being popular among people of faith, whatever their religions, for it mirrors some of their own conflicts (If there is a benevolent God, why is there so much suffering? Am I being punished by God for something?) in their souls.
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on February 13, 2001
The Bible seems to bring out hypersensitivity in people today (either they want to hear nothing from it, or it can't be touched as it is too sacred.) While the Bible is sacred scripture, the stories from the Bible are wonderful material for creating living, vivid stories.
This book reminds me of the out-of-print and rare Joseph and his Brothers by Thomas Mann, although much smaller in scope. Both books tried to put ancient life in the light of human behavior that is timeless. This is the novelistic trick that makes the characters come alive with drama and realism. Sarah is a Bible figure with many sides that are hinted at in scripture; the conflict with Hagar, her long and difficult period of infertility (a total tragedy in her society) and her marriage to the powerful Abraham. The side story of Lot is also wonderfully fleshed out.
Orson Scott Card always creates memorable characters, especially woment characters, and this book is immensely enjoyable.
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on October 30, 2002
"Sarah" sets out to take the light sketch of Abraham's wife in the Bible and extend it into a full novel telling much of her life's story from her point of view. If "Sarah" is any clue, OS Card set out with the "Women of Genesis" series to loft a feminist retake on the biblical story of the patriarchs: What were the wives of these great prophets up to? Why do they, despite sparing reference in the Bible, get a lot more attention than almost any other women in the male-dominated scriptures? Could it be because they were as intelligent, brave, righteous, and powerful in their service to the "God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob," just as much as their famous, credit-hogging husbands? Sarah turns out to qualify, not just as a co-equal with the revered Abraham, but his indispensable support without whom he could not have lived up to greatness. In keeping with this 20th-century revision of 4,000-year-old nomadic culture, Sarah is also outspoken and liberated, with Abraham not batting an eye, as both of them talk like modern Americans. Those easily offended at irreverent takes on revered religious figures will not appreciate Abraham teasing the aging Sarah about her saggy breasts, though those offended by religious stuffiness will have a ball with the refreshingly human portrayals. Nor will purists of the historical novel appreciate the dialog, though the author has made a genuine effort to depict an accurate milieu of nomadic life. Actually, since depicting ancient culture really accurately is ultimately an intractable challenge, substituting the audience's culture into the unknowns makes as much sense for the story as anything. Purists of whatever flavor of orthodox Biblical interpretation are also bound to get riled, not least by the substitution of less miraculous replacements for the brimstone from heaven and the punishment by transformation into a pillar of salt. Card also sneaks in a few Mormon conceits hinting at the Book of Enoch, and the Pharaoh's sacred rituals as an apostate form of the real temple ceremonies.
Although "Sarah" functions admirably as a distant prequel to Card's fantastic "Stone Tables" (the story of Moses), I started losing patience with Sarah and Abraham at the same time Pharaoh was losing patience with them in the story. Although it starts out in characteristic Card form with appealing character development as Sarah learns of Abraham and they launch off on their adventure together, my credibility was stretched by the summary execution with which their romance together was dispensed. As the story continues, it started to dawn on me that Sarah and Abraham are both a little too confident in their righteousness for much doubt to remain as to where the story is going. After all, we have read this story before; the devil has got to be in the details; but the details are filled only with God. This ideal faith leaves little to be resolved.
Although Hagar is introduced as interestingly tragic, and her talent for frank analogies to bedchambers endears her, the following setup explaining the biblical story of Abraham fathering a child with her is too pat, and the pain it inflicts on Sarah too tidy. Worse, Hagar's character is disingenuously contorted to fit the artificial demands of the new plot, going from sympathetic up until the impregnation to repulsive, redemptionless witch afterward. This uncomfortable pattern is repeated with Sarah's sister, who marries Lot and is also tagged with a "rejected-by-God" sign on her back that apparently requires the story to turn her into a shrill, putrid scab of a human being to get us to understand that it was really for the best for God to wipe her out. I can understand giving more background to show a God who reserved punishment for more than just a minor infraction like looking back homeward after he said not to, but a dumpster-full of justification was served where a single pie would have done nicely. The same goes for the general population of Sodom and Gomorrah, whose depiction was ripped out of the Clockwork Orange complemented by a genuinely hostile commentary on homosexuality, coming from a writer with a stable-full of sympathetic gay characters in earlier novels. That combined with the heavily slanted depiction of the Isaac Versus Ishmael story as backdrop for the next four thousand years and counting of Jew Versus Arab conflict, will potentially put off a significant slice of potential readers who do not share with the author his professed admiration for the Fox News Channel worldview.
Despite its flaws, "Sarah" remains at least serviceable and often compelling, as an exercise in historical and religious revisionism. The dependable Card trademarks of compelling character-driven storytelling and insightful moral and psychological exploration are still here to merit a four-star rating. But don't go away - the series takes a huge leap forward in Part Deux with "Rebekah." I've noticed the Amazon sales rank is lower for "Rebekah" than for "Sarah," suggesting there are lots of you out there doing what I almost did and foregoing the second installment due to less-than-expected delicious Card storytelling in the first. But if you at all enjoyed this one, the best is yet to come.
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on January 2, 2001
No matter what genre he chooses, Orson Scott Card can't seem to write a bad novel. Biblical fiction isn't a "hot" topic, but after reading "The Red Tent" by Anita Diamont, I was curious as to how one of my favorite sci-fi authors would approach such a story.
The story of Sarah and her husband Abraham is one I half-heard about in Sunday school as a child. Orson Scott Card brings it vividly to life so that the characters become more than just biblical figures, but real people with real lives, real doubts, and real faith. The book does start slow, but as I read on I found myself appreciating Card's ability to take time with the everyday aspects of Sarah and Abraham's lives rather than focusing entirely on the dramas and miracles of biblical proportion.
Regardless of whether or not you agree with Card's basic religious assumptions or his interpretation of Sarah and Abraham's story, this book is still a great example of Card's artful storytelling at its best.
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on January 27, 2002
Orson Scott Card, who usually writes science fiction, turns his hand here to the story of Sarah, from Genesis. He begins with a spunky ten-year old "Sarai" and her bratty sister "Qira" who will later turn out, interestingly, to be Mrs. Lot. Card takes a number of liberties with the biblical story, but he has done prodigious research, and is able to make those almost prehistoric times, customs and peoples believable. I enjoyed the book and recommend it, but it has some limitations. The characters are one-dimensional and they never seem to grow or change. I was disappointed in the portrayal of Abraham's relationship to God--it was unique and unheard of for his time, not just another religious guy. Still and all, the book was most enjoyable and easy to read!
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on November 22, 2001
I was familiar with the Abraham/Sarah story from long ago, but the depth that Mr. Card gives to these characters in this novel truly brings them to life in the mind's eye. Abraham is shown by his faith in God and how it never wavers. Sarah, with all the insecurity of being new to Abraham's faith, often wonders if she made the right decisions or if she is being punished for disobeying her father's wishes. Sarah's relationships with her sister and Hagar show how outward appearances often mask what is really going on. Hagar seemed to be Sarah's friend, but that masked the true feelings of hatred because of the master/slave relationship.
I would recommend this book to anyone, and can't wait until I can get my hands on "Rebekah."
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on January 22, 2002
Card doesn't usually have to try very hard to win my praise. Aside from "Lost Boys" which was awful, I think I have enjoyed every book Orson Scott Card has written. I was a bit hesitant to read some of these more recent books, "Stone Tables" for instance, because I'm not particularly religious minded, however these books are extremely enjoyable as simpe fiction. Card has always been good at blending history and fiction ("Pastwatch" was a triumph) and he does just as well with the biblical stories. I am very much looking forward to the other books in the series, and - truthfully - for any further books from an author who excells with historical fiction, fantasy, and science fiction.
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on May 6, 2004
This was an interesting account of the wife of "Father Abraham." I love that, at the end of the book, Card explains why he made certain decisions about the story and where he did his research. I don't always agree with his interpretation of the story, but (as has most Biblical fiction) the book has made me anxious to open my Bible and read its account of Sarah, digesting every word like precious wine (excepting that I don't actually like wine, but you get the picture). My favorite part of the book was his interpretations of Lot's wife and Hagar, the handmaid who bore Ishmael. If those women truly were how they are portrayed in this novel, then it would explain a lot about why their lives turned out how they did.
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