This is posted today as part of a book tour. Be sure to check out what others are saying about this book, and don’t forget to enter BOTH contests at the end of the review!
After decades of exile, the prophesies are coming true–King Cyrus has declared the Jews may return to Jerusalem. Iddo, a priest, is sure this is a sign of God’s renewed favor. For too long they’ve remained in Babylon, and many, including Iddo’s sons, are losing the faith that sets them apart. And so only a few choose to leave everything to return–return to their home and their God.
Nothing about their journey to the Promised Land is easy. As hardships mount, even the faithful, like Iddo’s beloved wife, Dinah, question the sacrifice of following God’s leading. Zechariah, Iddo’s oldest grandson, feels torn between his grandfather’s ancient beliefs and the family they left behind. But one life-changing encounter with the Holy One gives him insight that will change Zechariah–and history–forever.
At the start of a speech he recently gave to the United Nations, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reminded us that Persia (now Iran) was once a friend to the Jewish people. “Some 2,500 years ago the great Persian king Cyrus ended the Babylonian exile of the Jewish people. He issued a famous edict in which he proclaimed the right of the Jews to return to the land of Israel and rebuild the Jewish temple in Jerusalem.” This excellent new novel by Lynn Austin is the story of the first group of exiles to make that return, as originally told in the books of Ezra, Nehemiah, Haggai and Zechariah.
Return to Me starts on the night the Babylonian empire fell to the Persians. The prophet Daniel is summoned to the royal court by the last Babylonian king to interpret the writing on the wall. The focus then moves to Iddo and his grandson, Zechariah, and Daniel is only seen once more when the Jewish exiles discover they are free to return to Jerusalem. There then follows a time when the community members must decide whether or not to make the long trip. Many were born in Babylon and have comfortable lives. Some have taken up Babylonian cultural practices and begun worshipping the Babylonian gods. They believe God has forsaken them. Why should they give up their familiar lives for something that may or may not exist? Young Zechariah is torn: his grandparents will be making their journey, but his parents plan to stay in Babylon. Eventually, he commits to making the trip and observes the first efforts to rebuild the temple. He’ll also witness the hardships experienced by the remnant, the violence carried out by enemies of the Jews, and the drought God imposes on them when their rebuilding efforts cease. All the while, he’ll wrestle with the words that appear in his thoughts, words he’s sure come from scripture, if only he could find them in the scrolls.
I’m not well-versed in this area of the Old Testament so I did read the relevant passages before reviewing this book. In the end notes, Austin includes a list of verses she used as references while writing. Since this is fiction, she has fleshed out the lives of those included in the Biblical text and created additional events but, to this untrained eye, she does appear to hold true to Biblical accounts. Return to Me is written from three perspectives: Iddo and Zechariah who are both in the Bible, and Yael who is of Austin’s creation. Left motherless at a young age, Yael has adopted the Babylonian custom of consulting astrological charts to predict the future. But the charts aren’t always accurate, leaving the young woman confused. It is through these sets of eyes that we witness the return from exile, the rebirth of the holy city, and the rebuilding of the temple that one day would play an important part in the ministry of the foretold Messiah.
Return to Me is the first in a new series by Lynn Austin called The Restoration Chronicles. Each of the three books is apparently designed to stand alone. Book two will be called Keepers of the Covenant.
Thank you to Bethany House and Litfuse for my free review copy of Return to Me, which I received in exchange for an honest review.
Publisher: Bethany House (a division of Baker Publishing)
Publication Date: 01 October 2013
Page Count: 464
Win a copy of Return to Me!
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