Monday, April 25, 2016

Connilyn Cossette's "Counted With the Stars" - a unique and compelling perspective on the Exodus story

Cover ArtIn her debut novel, Connilyn Cossette looks into the life of one of the other peoples who joined the Hebrews in the exodus from Egypt. Kaia, sold as a slave to cover her father's debts, is forsaken by the man she expected to marry. Now, under a cruel mistress, she also experiences the plagues with the rest of Egypt. When the Hebrews are freed, Kaia chooses to flee with them. But will the trials of the desert be too much for her, sending her running back to Egypt, or will she surrender herself to the Hebrew's God?

I read very little biblical fiction. VERY little. But I'm very glad I picked this one up. Normally I worry about books of this genre being accurate, and when it comes down to it, if I wanted to read a book about Moses, I'd read the bible. However, this story is told from the perspective of an entirely fictional character, who I didn't have to worry about misrepresenting biblical characters. Very little of the main players of Exodus appear in this book--just one cameo, really. Instead, it's primarily the common folk, the unnamed multitude, who often followed blindly, not knowing what was ahead, fearing what was behind, and longing for the comforts of familiarity.

Kaia is a compelling and sympathetic narrator; she knows what it is to come down in the world, to have no hope for salvation, abandoned by those she loves. She watches those she trusted to save her be systematically destroyed, one by one, until she has no choice but to trust in the unseen. She offers a unique perspective on ancient Egyptian culture, from their obsession with beauty to the worship of their gods.

I really appreciate that the perspective of this novel is from an outsider's eyes, one of the "mixed multitude" who joined the Hebrews' flight. Sometimes we Christians get so used to hearing the stories that we never stop to think about the things that don't make sense to someone just learning about God and His immense power. Or how even the Hebrews didn't understand all that was going on when God unleashed His power on Egypt. And it's not just that perspective on the Exodus story that struck me, but also on the devastation to the Egyptian people. Their home wasn't just plagued, it was laid waste. The livestock were dead, every green thing eaten, buildings and infrastructure destroyed, the army and at least one male from every family wiped out--how many years did it take Egypt to rebuild to even a fraction of its former glory, without slaves, without menfolk, and without hope?

It doesn't retell the Exodus story so much as it encourages one to look deeper, beyond just Moses, Aaron, and Pharaoh. To consider what it might have been like to experience the plagues and subsequent exodus, to hear God speaking in the wilderness. Highly recommended!

Thank you Bethany House and NetGalley for providing an e-copy to review; I was not required to make the review positive, and all opinions are my own.

Out from Egypt
1. Counted with the Stars
2. Shadow of the Storm 
3. Wings of the Wind

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