Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Books: Women of Genesis Trilogy

Orson Scott Card is a fairly well known scifi writer, and a while ago, when I had a yen for Biblical fiction, I found this trilogy. The concept is, basically, telling the stories of the wives of the Patriarchs. So you get Sarah, Rebekah, and Rachel & Leah.

They were all enjoyable books, I finished the trilogy in just three days - very light, easy reading. But here's an important thing (two, actually), to remember: 1) It's *fiction* and therefore, some(lots) artistic license has been taken, 2) Card is Mormon, and it does come through in some wonky theological stuff in the books. I don't know enough about Mormon's to catch it all, but two things that stuck out were that 'God lives on another planet' and the 'household gods' represent the Father God and His Son which then changes to the Father God and His Servant/Son, and then in the last book it's Father God and His Angel. And we're talking about the same household gods, here. They get passed down in the books through a couple generations.

Another thing that bugged me, and it's sort of silly I guess, was that Hagar and Ishmael get really short shrift, in my opinion. Hagar is portrayed as a manipulative, lying, conniving, ungrateful shrew who takes all the advantages she can get and would (most likely) have killed Isaac if she could. And Ishmael comes off as this huge bully-cum-warlord who everybody worries is going to sweep down and lay to waste everything when Abraham dies.

And, and this'll be funny, I guess, to people who remember that I think some parts of the Bible aren't literal - he implies that some of the things written in the Bible didn't happen at all. And, yes, that bothers me.

Now, this isn't something that *bothered* me, but - there's a *huge* deal made about Abraham yelling at everybody else for making human sacrifice, etc. and Sarah pins so much on this, it's kind of like watching a train wreck, knowing that he's going to be asked to sacrifice Isaac later on. And yes, we all know it doesn't happen, but still. And then in the second book, the story has gotten around, but everybody says it's just this hurtful lie made up by Ishmael. However, he does make a point of showing that, despite the faith of both father and son, having your father willing to kill you will...let's go with *damage* your image of how your father values you. I think Card may have gone too far in many ways, but, artistic license.

Despite that stuff, they were well written, and entertaining. I actually laughed out loud in several places in all the books.

For examples of the humor:

In Sarah, Lot marries her older sister, Qira. They do, eventually, wind up living in Sodom. And Qira is forever lamenting how Lot just refuses to get along with the other men in town - he won't dress like they do, he won't go to their parties, etc. And it's...something of a running gag, I guess, that *everyone* knows what's going on in Sodom, and tries to tell her, delicately, but she just lets it sail straight over her head. And she keeps trying to reassure Sarah that her barrenness wouldn't be so odd in Sodom, because the women there have a hell of a time conceiving too...Or the part where Lot actually packs up the house around her and leaves, because she's refusing to leave Sodom to spend some time with Abraham's family.

In Rebekah, her father goes deaf, and she and Laban learn to write so that they can communicate with him, and teach it to the rest of the household for the same reason. And messages start appearing around the camp scratched in dirt, etc. saying how ugly Rebekah is. It comes out that it's a camp boy named Beibal writing them because Laban had beaten him up for making a crude comment about Rebekah because she was so pretty. Beibal and his mother get thrown out of the camp because of it, and this upsets Rebekah a lot. So, in order to keep this from happening again, she decides to wear a veil (something that they use in sandstorms) all the time, so no one can see how pretty she is.

She announces this to her nurse, Deborah, saying that she'd prayed to God, and God didn't say *not* to, so she was going to.

Deborah says: "What else isn't God telling you not to do so you can go ahead and do it?"

And then in Rachel and Leah:

Rachel: I don't know that I'm going to like being married to a man who ridicules me.

Jacob: What should I do, then, just gaze in perpetual rapture at your astonishing beauty?

Rachel: Not all the time. Just when you think I'm stupid.


  1. Interesting...Never heard of them before.

    If you don't take the Bible as being all literal, what bothered you about him implying it's not? The way he did it, the specific things he denies, or what?

  2. Sanil,

    I hadn't heard of them before either. I suspect they're not very well know, just because he's a scifi author and they aren't scifi. But they're enjoyable, light reading. Nothing too deep. Beach reads. :)

    Well, that's the funny part, I guess. It shouldn't, theoretically, have bothered me, except that he denied things that I believe are literal. So...yeah. Shoe, other foot. I believe that, barring the Creation story, everything that happened in the Bible happened. It may not have happened *exactly* that way, because the Bible isn't purely a history text, but the broad strokes are there.

  3. I enjoyed reading your thoughts on these books. I may have seen them in my library. Perhaps I'll read them sometime. I like your book reviews so keep 'em coming! :)

  4. Susanne,

    Thanks. :) They're light and fun, just, as I said, keep in mind: fiction and Mormon wonkitude.

    Also, I try to only talk about books that are...appropriate?

    For instance, I'm reading Jacqueline Carey right now, the Kusheline Cycle, and, so not appropriate. Wonderful books, but full of sex and violence.


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