After Abel and Oth­er Stories

  • Review
By – April 6, 2015

In After Abel and Oth­er Sto­ries, author and schol­ar Michal Lem­berg­er recre­ates the lives of nine Bib­li­cal women. In telling their tales, she enrich­es the voic­es of well known women like Miri­am, and brings out from silence those less hon­ored. Most impres­sive about Lem­berg­er’s sto­ries is her abil­i­ty to place the women in their time. She does not aggran­dize them or turn them into hero­ines. Rather, she tries to por­tray their lives in such a way as to give them the oppor­tu­ni­ty to explain why they took the actions that they are not­ed for in the Bible. It is refresh­ing that her sto­ries include a wide range of bib­li­cal women — not only famil­iar Jew­ish hero­ines such as Miri­am and Han­nah, but also Hagar, Yael the Ken­ite, and Zeresh from the Book of Esther.

The com­pact­ness of each sto­ry makes each strong enough to stand on its own. Lem­berg­er’s appar­ent deci­sion to approach each woman as an indi­vid­ual pre­vents the col­lec­tion from becom­ing a sim­plis­tic car­i­ca­ture of the life of bib­li­cal women. Read­ing the sto­ries one at a time actu­al­ly makes them much more sat­is­fy­ing. It is like­ly that not all sto­ries will res­onate equal­ly with all read­ers. I con­sid­ered the sto­ries of Miri­am (“Drawn from Water”) and Michal (“Saul’s Daugh­ter”) to be the book’s gems. In the for­mer, Lem­berg­er cap­tures the youth­ful Miri­am with just the right bal­ance of inno­cence and matu­ri­ty. The lat­ter is a most beau­ti­ful descrip­tion of the pow­er of love and hope in the face of brute pow­er and vio­lence. Not to be neglect­ed is the book’s after­word in which the author grace­ful­ly explains her approach to writ­ing and the Bible itself. Using the Book of Ruth as her tem­plate, this is a sto­ry as com­pelling as any oth­ers in the collection.

After Abel and Oth­er Sto­ries will appeal to read­ers with even the most basic intro­duc­tion to the Bib­li­cal canon, but espe­cial­ly to those whose imag­i­na­tions are piqued by the mys­tery of an untold story.

Deb­by Miller is a long-time board mem­ber of Jew­ish Book Coun­cil, serv­ing on its Fic­tion com­mit­tee, and lat­er found­ing the Nation­al Jew­ish Book Award for Book Clubs. She is cur­rent­ly a Vice Pres­i­dent of the orga­ni­za­tion. Deb­by is based in Greens­boro, NC and has been involved in the Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty through Nation­al Coun­cil of Jew­ish Women (NCJW), AIPAC, B’nai Shalom and the Fed­er­a­tion. She was pres­i­dent of the local Women’s Divi­sion and cam­paign chair, and also got involved in the Nation­al Women’s Divi­sion. One of her pri­ma­ry phil­an­thropic endeav­ors is her work with JDC, where she has been a mem­ber of the board since 1994

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