O Books, 2010. ISBN 978-1-846-94324-9.
Reviewed by Jennifer Melville
Posted on 10/04/2010
If I had to sum up Mary F. Burn's literary historical novel J: The Woman Who Wrote the Bible in three words, they would be: original, thought-provoking, and mesmerizing. Burn imagines a rich and captivating life for the woman scholar J who lived in the Solomonic Courts. J becomes Hokhma Janaia, the eldest daughter of King David, a woman who defies stereotypes and experiences intense visions of both present and future events.
Janaia is an instantly likable character and the world she lives in is beautifully brought to life. Whether or not you're familiar with the stories of King David and King Solomon, the intrigue and drama are sure to sweep you away.
The story begins with her living in a cave with her family; her father was prophesied to rise up and become king of Israel.
The story follows her journey to power, her desire to find true love, her role as a seer and prophet, and her struggle to learn and be accepted. "Almost no one knows that I have learned to write," Janaia says in the book's prologue. "In the old days, a girl among men, I would have been banished at once, or even killed, and though these are more indulgent times, there is still envy and ambition and fear." Janaia defines herself by her ability to read, write, and her visions in a world where mothers and wives were not allowed these skills. The Woman Who Wrote the Bible is an unbelievably interesting and at times heart wrenching story, and one that should not be missed.
Mary F. Burns has written two mystery books in The West Portal Mysteries series, as well as The Woman Who Wrote the Bible. She has both a bachelor's and a master's degree in English from Northern Illinois University in DeKalb. She lives in San Francisco with her husband. Visit her website.
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