Sunday, July 12, 2015

Reviews are coming in!

5.0 out of 5 starsAn engrossing story of ancient world, July 12, 2015
By Stephanie Cowell (New York, New York United States
This review is from: Isaac and Ishmael: A Novel of Genesis (Paperback)
The relationship between brothers, sisters, fathers and sons in the Old Testament become as real as your own family in this poetic retelling of a few of the great stories of the Old Testament, from the young boy Isaac who is beloved of his father and his rougher outcast brother Ishmael, son of Isaac's mother 's handmaiden. Told with humor, spiritual awe and a true sense of the rivalry and love which divides and binds brothers over generations, it seems to rise from ancient sands. Yahweh is as present as the shape of the land and the stars in the sky. Isaac and his sons Jacob and Esau are seekers of their own complicated destinies and Yahweh’s often mystifying will. The women root them to their worlds and are the source of stability and love within their tents. ISAAC AND ISHMAEL is a moving novel which made me feel joyful and also brought tears to my eyes several times. There are so many truths about life in these pages, as we lived it then and as we live it now.

From A Book Lover's Paradise (Donna), June 17, 2015:

There you have it, an excerpt from a fantastic book. I received this book to review. I started reading and kept reading, and reading, and reading. I could not put the book down! The story of Abraham's two sons. One by Hagar, and one by Sarah. Most of us are familiar with the biblical story, but Burns' goes deeper and tells a beguiling story.   Ms. Burns' storytelling style is unique.  The reader is drawn into the tale and becomes not just a reader, but an active participant in the events. I felt like a family member watching the events unfold. I can only describe this book as incredible. The characters are so well developed, they are REAL people.You will be part of their lives. Some, you will like more than others. Strangely enough, I was not a big fan of Sarah or Abraham. I loved Isaac and felt strongly toward Ishmael. I highly recommend this book and look forward to more by Mary F Burns.

From BookNerd blog (Diane Silva), June 16, 2015:

My Review
Four Stars (of Five)
Copy received for an honest review from Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours
I personally love stories from the old testament so Isaac and Ishmael by Mary F. Burns was an enjoyable read for me.  The author really set the tone for this story with the way the story was written. Burns writes as if this story were written like the bible. The tone was serious and somber. I also loved how she gave us insight into Isaac and Ishmael.  The complex relationship between Isaac and Ishmael was captivating and intense. I also really enjoyed the strength of the women and how they were portrayed as strong and integral parts of the story. Overall, this was an enjoyable story. Once I opened it I wanted to see what the other would do with Isaac and Ishmael.  I highly recommend and enjoyed this story.

From A Book Drunkard book blog (L.M. Montgomery), June 11, 2015:

Isaac and Ishmael: A Novel of Genesis by Mary F. Burns tells the Biblical story of Abraham’s two sons.  Whether or not you believe in the Bible, it’s a story you will still enjoy. It’s a tale of brothers, a legendary father, and a series of strong women.  I enjoyed how the characters were written and developed – and with them, I rode a roller coaster of highs and lows, love and betrayal.   The author’s writing style is something I haven’t come across before.  There are no quotation marks and no dialog like I’m used to in a book.  It’s almost as if the reader hears what they are saying in their thoughts.  It was hard at first, but I found it extremely comforting the further I went.  The book has a quiet loveliness that flows easily. Mary F. Burns has written an intriguing book that is so exceptionally researched, that it sends the reader back in time.  I’m very much a fan and am looking forward to what she writes next.

From Goodreads:

Jan 28, 2015 Leslie rated it 5 of 5 stars:
With a style evocative of Genesis, Mary Burns illustrates the inner thoughts, motivations, and lives of Isaac and Ishmael and their descendants. She sets the words of Genesis to music and gives the reader a glimpse of how to interpret them for the modern world. In her clear and poignant prose Burns’ wondrous stories transported me to a real yet mysterious place where she illuminates complex family interactions. I appreciate her delicate writing style and scholarly approach.

Dec 19, 2014 Audrey rated it 4 of 5 stars
In this lyrical tale, Burns tells the story of the sons of Abraham--Isaac and Ishmael--who gave rise to the Jewish and Arab people. The book's language has a slightly Biblical cadence but the story itself examines the human motivations and feelings of the men and women who wandered the ancient desert. The language and subject matter give "Isaac and Ishmael" the feeling of magical realism. (If the Bible were written this way, perhaps I would actually have been able to complete my numerous attempts to read it.) You'll enjoy this book if you like imagining the lives of those who lived long ago, who may or may not have been real figures but whose mythology has had a lasting effect on humanity.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Guest Post on Writing Biblical Fiction from Translations

See my Guest Post at "Just One More Chapter" historical fiction blog, titled "Found in Translation: Writing Biblical Fiction, or it’s all Greek—or Hebrew—to Me! 

Monday, November 18, 2013

A Novel of Genesis - First of Three

 Isaac and Ishmael

Sarai, laughing, has hurt Yahweh’s feelings. 
What?  I who groan in age am now to groan in pleasure, and bear a son?  Who’s kidding whom?
Who is that laughing?  says Yahweh.  Who thinks I cannot do this thing?
Not I.  Her eyes on the ground.  Then sideways she sees her husband whose eyes are fixed on the boldest stranger, who sits eating veal and drinking milk under their olive trees.  Abram holds his breath.  The stranger has just said to him, Count the stars.  Can you?  Your descendants shall be more.  The two men with him are silent, their eyes glitter, their arms like wings tucked at their sides even as they eat.
I’ll be back in nine months, says the stranger, to see your son.

Watch:  they wrestle in the tent on the warm skins of calves. Under woven cloth, worn hands caress dry flesh, thin lips press to cheeks once smooth, once firm, still loved. 
A deep well of laughter shakes her, a joy not to be named.  Her foolish husband thinks this is how it must be done.  She felt the dart of light hit her womb when the stranger spoke.
Abram groans bringing forth his last drop of seed, wrung out of him as women twist wet clothes at the river to hurry the drying.  He doesn’t think he has been able to thrust far enough, and yet, Yahweh said it.

// 1 //
Down in the flats of the land, Sarah old for a wife, old for a mother. 
Now look:  she goes to the opening in the tent, turns her face up to the hills as if she could see the two of them with her own eyes, man and boy.  Father and son.  Both the same, foolish.  Yahweh sends me to the hills to make an offering, holocaust, he has told her.  Her heart sickens and she is afraid because she has seen his eyes, black, hollow.  But she does not forget the great wonder of her son Isaac, gift of Yahweh in her old age, for her and for Abraham, and the promise of the Blessing. 
Sarah looks one more time, the sun is setting, too dark to see far.  She goes back inside the tent, closes the flap.  She knows what the curved knife is for, and she fears the worst.