I decided to talk about this book for April’s Book of the Month because I had a change in perspective, and discovered many genres of literature tied to religion that have defined what I want to publish one day.
Bathsheba by Jill Eileen Smith. Before I review this novel, I want to share the story that led me to read it.
Back in the summer of 2012, I was at a transition point in my life. Graduated high school, headed to college in the fall, and finding my first bits of confidence. My faith in God had gone through a difficult period the year prior. I also loved writing, but I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with it in terms of genre. I had gone to my local library to get DVDs for my mom and check out books for some inspiration and to see what was out there. Upon walking to the ‘New Arrivals’ section, I paused. The name ‘Bathsheba’ jumped out at me. I almost walked away because I knew from reading the Bible of her scandalous place in Biblical history. Yet…the cover made me feel differently: “I have a story to tell.” I decided to give the book a chance. It’s why I returned to the story almost six years later as I face another transition: where do I go from here as I rebuild my writing and try to write a novel again.
From the very first page all those years ago, I was hooked. Heartbroken, angry, and in awe of the history (I enjoy learning about certain time periods including medieval times), I found a lightning rod of a novel that made me want to return to my own Bible upon finishing so I could reread the actual text. Smith did a tremendous job researching Biblical times and bringing these famous characters from history to life before my eyes. There were times I felt my old judgments of Bathsheba, but the way Smith wove her character development made me gain perspective. I even became sympathetic. By the time I finished, I saw Bathsheba in a different light. I also believe that book may have also played a role in me taking religion classes my final two years of college. I wanted to learn more and understand how scholars, authors, and more perceived Biblical figures.
For those who may not be familiar with the Biblical story, here’s the gist of it: Bathsheba was the wife of Uriah the Hittite, a loyal soldier in King David’s army. The king becomes enamored of Bathsheba, especially of her beauty. After a passionate encounter, chaos follows in Jerusalem as King David tries to maintain control of his kingdom and Bathsheba finds herself embroiled in infamy. What happens next I won’t spoil because that will give away how the story ends. However, it is a good ending.
Biblical Fiction may be debatable for some because of the role fiction plays against the backdrop of historical accounts. It is true that we may never know what actually happened and only have what we do in terms of the Bible and other historical finds. But haven’t you ever wondered what might have happened? The definition of Biblical Fiction is pretty straightforward: a work of fiction using characters, settings, and events from the Bible. I don’t know how others may feel, but reading Biblical Fiction has stirred curiosity for me, and a better understanding of faith throughout the ages.
Through creativity and research, Smith writes a raw arc of mistakes made, the consequences that follow, and the redemption that culminates in restored faith and forgiveness. Interpretations may differ depending on the author and their imagination, but the history remains the same. The novel is also a stunning conclusion to the Wives of King David series that showcased two other famous wives, Michal and Abigail. Their stories are just as enchanting and highly recommended.
By reading Jill Eileen Smith’s books, I discovered more authors of Biblical/Historical Fiction including Mesu Andrews (The Pharaoh’s Daughter and Miriam), Tessa Afshar (In the Field of Grace (about Ruth) and Pearls in the Sand (about Rahab), and Diana Wallis Taylor (Journey to the Well (about the Samaritan Woman at Jacob’s Well) and Claudia: Wife of Pontius Pilate). A Lineage of Grace and Sons of Encouragement by Francine Rivers are also standouts. Through these books, I have grown to appreciate each Biblical figure’s place in history, and change my mind.
I thank Jill Eileen Smith for writing this story. Not just for remaining true to Scripture, but creating a beautiful, authentic, and powerful story. I changed my mind on Bathsheba after reading this book, and gained a better understanding of God’s Grace. I hope others may too, somehow.
Besides the Wives of King David series, Jill Eileen Smith has also written the Wives of the Patriarchs series (about Sarai/Sarah, Rebekah, and sisters Rachel and Leah), the Loves of Solomon series (about Naamah, Abishag, Siti, and the Queen of Sheba), and the Daughters of the Promised Land series (about Rahab, Deborah, Ruth, and Hannah). Hannah’s story, A Passionate Hope, was released in February 2018. You can follow Smith on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and check out her official website for more information.