Servant of the Secret Fire

Random thoughts on books and life in the reality-based community

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Location: New York, United States

The name I've chosen comes from "Lord of the Rings," when Gandalf faces down the Balrog in the Mines of Moria. My Hebrew name is Esther (which is related to the word for "hidden" or "secret") Serafina (which means "burning"). This seems appropriate because although I don't usually put myself forward, I do care very passionately about a lot of things. Maybe through these blogs I can share some of these passions, as well as less weighty ideas and opinions, with others.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Book Review: The Prophet's Wife by Milton Steinberg ****

At the time of his premature death in 1950, Milton Steinberg, respected rabbi and author of the acclaimed As a Driven Leaf, left the unfinished manuscript of a second novel. After sixty years, The Prophet's Wife has finally been published.

Set in the days before the Assyrian invasion of the northern kingdom of Israel, The Prophet's Wife revolves around the life of Hosea, one of the earliest literary prophets and the one about whose personal life we know the most. Hosea talks in the book named for him about how he married a woman who betrayed him with other men, yet took her back as God would do with unfaithful Israel.

As in his other novel, Steinberg gives us a vivid re-imagining of ancient Israelite life and customs, as well as a very human portrait of Hosea, the scholarly yet unappreciated son of his pious father, and Hosea's erring wife Gomer. Steinberg's stately prose brings to mind the cadences of the Tanakh, yet is never inaccessible to the modern reader.

The editors of The Prophet's Wife have made the bold and unconventional decision to leave it in its unfinished state, ending at a pivotal point in its subject's life, adding two very different essays by modern scholars speculating on how Steinberg would have finished the book if he had lived. The reader, as well, can come up with his or her own ending for Hosea and Gomer's story.


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