Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Review: Love's Sacred Song by Mesu Andrews


By: Mesu Andrews
Publisher: Revell
ISBN: 978-0-8007-3408-4

About the book:

Wisdom came as God's gift, but sacred love was forged through passion's fire.

Standing in the shadow of his famous father, young King Solomon wavers between fear and bravado, longing for a love that is true and pure -- a love that can be his cornerstone.

A shepherdess in the northern city of Shunem, Arielah has known since she first laid eyes on Solomon that it was her destiny to become his bride. When her father secures a promise from Solomon to marry Arielah as a treaty bride to help unite the kingdom, it seems her dreams will come true.

But how can this simple shepherdess live as part of Solomon's harem? Can Solomon set aside his distractions to give himself completely to just one woman? Or will he let duty, deception, and the daily routine divide his heart?

Mesu Andrews expertly weaves the words of the Song of Solomon into this touching story of the power of love from a master storyteller.

Review:

When Arielah was a child she accompanied her father Jeheosephat, a respected judge of Shunem, to Jerusalem, where she spied the young prince Solomon. And ever since that day she's carried in her heart the certainty that they would one day wed. Years pass, and the great King David lies on his deathbed, comforted by the prize of Shunem, the beautiful Abishag (1 Kings 1& 2), who serves as his "belly-warmer," an intimate but platonic relationship. Abishag's lack of any official status in the royal household becomes a lightening rod, symbolizing the northern tribes' discontent with their favored southern brethren, the tribe of Judah's, rule and dominance in Israeli affairs. With the once-mighty warrior king near death, the time is ripe for conflict to erupt between those who favor a united Israel and David's chosen heir, Solomon, and those who would usurp God's anointed and seek to advance the pre-eminence of Judah. Into this politically volatile climate steps Solomon, a prince of privilege possessing the promised gift of godly wisdom with which to govern his people -- but with an equally competing temptation to succumb to the paralyzing fear of failure. When Arielah is offered as a treaty bride in an attempt to appease the simmering temper of the northern tribes, Solomon accepts, but is wholly unprepared for his unconventional bride and the surrender the love she offers him requires. While the cost of the pure love Arielah offers seems impossible to grasp, with the future of his kingdom and very character at stake, can Solomon afford to reject the hope of love's sacred song?

After Mesu Andrews brought Job's story to life in her debut, Love Amid the Ashes, I was left eagerly awaiting her next novel. I must confess that beyond a rather rudimentary knowledge of Solomon's reign and his famous wisdom, I don't think I've ever given the man his due (I've always been more of a David girl). :) And while the Song of Songs is among the most passionate of texts, I never really connected with it -- perhaps because that slim book always seemed to lack context, a place in the greater narrative of the Old Testament that would put faces to the passionate declarations in those short eight chapters of verse. But ever since I began reading Love's Sacred Song, I feel as though God has been whispering the intent of that book to my heart, birthing within me a love and understanding for this book within the context of my faith. Through Andrews' intricately plotted, brilliantly recreated, colorfully evocative portrait of ancient Israel, the purpose and passion of Solomon and his Shulammite bride spring to life on the page in such a way that -- if one is willing -- you cannot help but be changed and inspired by the journey.

Love's Sacred Song is epic in its scope, embodying everything I love about biblical fiction, making characters on the pages of scripture once again living, breathing people full of passion and life, leaving you cheering for their victories and heart-broken over their (all-too relatable) mistakes. Andrews restores Solomon's humanity, much needed as his legendary wisdom too often leaves him seemingly unrelatable. Here Andrews gives us Solomon early in his reign, a young man attempting to establish himself outside the shadow of his famous father, often paralyzed by the fear of failure and subsequently blinded by pride and the trappings of position. Arielah is a woman you'd like as your friend, a window into the world of a royal harem and its politics and heartbreak, incomprehensible by today's standards. Yet, such was the reality she faced -- and that makes the challenge and victory of the love illustrated in Solomon's sacred song all the more powerful.

More than a love story, though, Love's Sacred Song speaks to the heart's cry of the Father and the unfathomable depth of the love He longs to lavish on each one of His children -- if we but accept it. If the marriage relationship is a gift, an earthly expression of the relationship God desires with mankind -- then the Song of Songs is much more than a picture of God-ordained, sacred love between a man and a woman as outlined in the Song. Since the church is the bride of Christ, the Song of Songs and the love that inspired it point back to the giver of every good and perfect gift, the only one, ultimately, who is capable of offering a lasting love because He knows us best, as He is the one who fashioned us in our mothers' wombs (Ps 139:13). And because He so loved, because the sacred passion He harbored demanded no less, His Son was sent to earth to suffer unspeakably at the hands of His creation, in doing so offer the ultimate bride-price -- His precious blood, covering our failings and reconciling mankind with the creator.

Rich with atmosphere and historical detail, including fascinating glimpses into everything from wedding customs to court protocol and intrigue, Love's Sacred Song is sure to delight historical and biblical fiction lovers alike. With lead characters who send sparks flying from the page and a host of well-drawn supporting players, Mesu Andrews's second novel is a rich, meaty read that will not only entertain, but if you'll let it, challenge and grow your faith, inspiring a deeper appreciation for the texts from which Song draws its inspiration. An intricately plotted page-turner, I particularly appreciated how Andrews seamlessly wove the scriptures that head each chapter into her narrative -- by giving a face and voice to the scripture, the words and their potential impact take root in your soul in a powerful, fresh way. This is fiction at its best, a masterfully crafted work that challenges, inspires, and will break your heart with its beauty all the while encouraging your faith even as tears threaten to fall -- because at its heart this masterclass in biblical fiction points straight back to the Master Storyteller. This novel is an extraordinary gift, one I won't soon forget.

5 comments:

Mesu Andrews said...

Holy cow, woman! You make ME want to read the book again! ha! Blessings on ya!

Lori Benton said...

While I agree on every point you made about Love's Sacred Song, I just want to say how blown away I am (again) by one of your reviews. I wanted to sing "Just As I Am" at the end of that one! :)

Ruth said...

@Mesu - Thanks for stopping by my friend! You're funny!! :) Blessings to you as well -- bring on the next book!

@Lori - Oh thank you my friend, you are too kind! I meant every word...this book hit me in a POWERFUL way. I'm glad if I was able to convey a fraction of that. :)

MissKimberlyStardust said...

Lovely review, I keep seeing such favourable reviews I'll have to add it to my wishlist.
Now following your blog :) I love the yellow in your blog template!
- Kimberly @ Turning The Pages

Ruth said...

@MissKimberlyStardust - Hello & thank you so much for stopping by! I do hope you'll give Mesu's novels a try, I think they are absolutely wonderful! :)