Thursday, June 26, 2014

Review: Dawnlight

Dawnlight: When the World Is Changed Forever
By Kacy Barnett-Gramckow
Elk Lake Publishing, March 2014

About the Book

Inspired by the mysterious events of Matthew 27:52-53. Amid first-century Jerusalem's political and religious unrest, Elisheba loses her beloved husband, Joseph. Though she is mourning, Elisheba must fight to protect herself and her young son from the schemes and deceptions of others who wish to control her fortune and her future.

While Elisheba defies her enemies, her husband's closest friends must decide what they believe—and risk death. When another tragedy strikes, an impossible miracle shakes their lives and their world is forever changed . . . at Dawnlight.

About the Book

I’m very familiar with the passage in Matthew 27 about Jesus’ crucifixion, of course. But before reading Dawnlight it never occurred to me to wonder what it must really have meant that “the tombs were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised” and when “coming out of the tombs after His resurrection, they entered the holy city and appeared to many.” What would it be like to lose one you loved to death—and then, unexpectedly, unbelievably, to see that dear one alive and whole again, if only for a moment in time?

That’s the premise of author Kacy Barnett-Gramckow’s beautifully tender novel Dawnlight. Both Elisheba and her husband Joseph are descended from a long line of Sadducees, Jewish leaders who, unlike the Pharisees, do not believe in life after death. But then the young couple encounters Rabbi Yeshua, hear his teachings, and witness the miracles he performs—and become believers, as do several of Joseph’s close friends. When Joseph falls dangerously ill, Elisheba’s desperate plea for her father-in-law, Lord Pallu, to send for Yeshua to heal him is brushed aside with scorn. Elisheba’s heart is shattered when Joseph dies, and adding to her agony, Pallu threatens to take her son, Benjamin, from her and send her away because she dared to believe in Yeshua.

I confess I dislike most biblical fiction. The characters generally seem wooden to me, the plots uninspired and often veering too far from biblical accounts. Dawnlight is an exception. The author’s depiction of Jerusalem in Jesus’ time feels authentic and vital, and I was immediately drawn into this world by the engaging and believable characters. I found myself caring deeply about their plight, especially that of Elisheba, and the unexpected resolution was truly joyful.

In luminous prose, Barnett-Gramckow weaves her story through many unanticipated twists and turns with characters that hold one’s heart. I read the ending through tears. Haunting, transcendent, and lovely is that hushed, timeless moment at Dawnlight . . .

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