In these two volumes of his trilogy, Marek Halter involves “passion” and biblical-era religion as he combines imagined history, archeological findings, and the protagonists. They evoke the feminism of The Red Tent by Anita Diamant, written nearly ten years ago. Halter portrays Sarah as a modern woman, making choices in her life. He emphasizes the passion and fervor of Abraham, and more pertinently, the passion between him and Sarah — ”Her heart was hammering against her ribs, and her hands were shaking” when they met. Abraham, commanding and fiery, is a wonderful hero. Sarah’s youthful impetuousness, which determines much of her life, evolves into mystical wisdom. The intensity of ancient perceptions of G‑d are juxtaposed with women’s roles throughout. Interestingly, both Sarah and Zipporah married outside their tribe.
Descriptions of daily life add value. As for the prose, the translator’s choices startle: a young person is in a “tetchy” mood, or a “motley crew” moves along a path. In what time frame do Halter’s readers live?
The second volume is a biography of Zipporah, who was raised in Midian. Halter uses the idea that she was in fact a Cushite (Nubian/Sudanese), and supposes that she was adopted as a small girl by Jethro, the sage and prince. Fate brings two foundlings — Moses and Zipporah — into one tent, and ultimately into marriage. While Sarah quietly encourages Abraham, Zipporah is an active ally of Moses, firmly telling him his duty toward Pharaoh’s Hebrew slaves. Both females make choices. According to Halter, Sarah’s infertility is her choice; Zipporah chose not to marry Moses until some time after their first son was born. Miriam, Moses’ sister, is antagonistic to Zipporah, a black person. Zipporah witnesses the death of their small sons in the turmoil among the rescued Hebrews prior to Moses’ final descent from the mountain. The book’s final level of tension and rapid pace are stirring.