Naomi and Her Daughters: A Novel

Naomi and Her Daughters: A Novel

by Walter Wangerin Jr.


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From master storyteller Walter Wangerin, Jr. comes this familiar biblical saga told in a fresh, transfixing way. You’ll feel you’ve never heard it before! Melding historical accuracy with imaginative detail, Wangerin uses the biblical books of Judges and Ruth to explore themes of love, faith, grief and community set against a backdrop of war and political instability. The widow Naomi grieves the deaths of her two adult sons after the shocking murder of a beloved adopted daughter, while pondering her responsibilities toward her Moabite daughters-in-law. Ancient Israel is in chaos. When her daughter-in-law, Ruth, begs to return to Israel with Naomi, events are set in motion that will change the course of history. But wait…this isn’t the tame, flannel graph story you heard in Sunday School. In the tradition of Anita Diamant’s The Red Tent and Elissa Elliott’s Eve: A Novel of the First Woman, Wangerin imbues his tale with strong female characters and an earthy realism that gives the timeless Old Testament narrative so much power. You’ll find echoes of contemporary issues throughout: deceit, heartbreak, loss, war, and, of course, the power of love. Naomi’s combined strength and tenderness becomes the pivot upon which a nation turns; her decisions ultimately lead to the founding of the family lineage of Jesus Christ. Breathtaking descriptions, shocking violence, and inspirational courage make this spellbinding novel by a beloved award-winning author a story you won’t soon forget. It’s the perfect novel for your book group, and a satisfying read for those who love thoughtful biblical fiction.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780310327349
Publisher: Zondervan
Publication date: 08/26/2010
Pages: 288
Product dimensions: 9.48(w) x 11.08(h) x 0.98(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Walter Wangerin Jr. es reconocido como uno del mejor escritor sobre las aplicaciones la fe y la espiritualidad. Su libros incluyen The Book of God [El libro de Dios], Reliving the Pasion [Recuerdo de la Pasion], Peter's First Easter [El Primer Domigo de Resureccionde Pedro], Mourning into Dancing [Como Cambiar el Lamento en Baile], The Manger is Empty [El Pesebre Vacio] y Little Lamb, Who Made Thee? [ Quien te hizo, Corderito?]. Wangerin vive en Valparaiso, Indiana, ocupa la catedra Jochum en la Universidad de Valparaiso, donde es escritor residente.

Read an Excerpt

Naomi and Her Daughters

A Novel
By Walter Wangerin Jr.


Copyright © 2010 Walter Wangerin, Jr. and/or Ruthanne M. Wangerin as Trustee of Trust No. 1.
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-310-32734-9

Chapter One

A Present Rage

A cry is heard in Judah, lamentation and bitter weeping. The Women of Bethlehem are weeping for their daughter and refusing to be consoled because she is no more. Four hundred women in black robes stand on rooftops. They tear their hair. They stretch their arms wide under heaven. They throw back their heads and whirl, robes billowing.

"Milcah!" they howl, wolves keening on the air. "Milcah!"

Milcah of the white hands, sixteen years old, the young wife whose cheeks they kissed not three days ago and unto whom they waved farewell as she departed with her husband for his home in Ephraim - Milcah is no more.

She will never come home again.

Until the evening meal this had been an unremarkable day. By midafternoon the women were preparing for supper by grinding grain in their handmills - producing the genial sound of a village at work. Children small enough still to be playing in the lanes began to smell barley cakes baking. Time to twaddle home. As the sun descended and shadows grew too long for labor, the farmers came back through the gate. They paused in the public square to discuss the date harvest - difficult because the palms grew far down great escarpments near the shores of the Salt Sea.

Just before they separated, while each farmer turned to his house, a man came sprinting into town. He fell to his knees and gasped for air.

He wore a loincloth only. He had the long, ropy muscles of a distance runner. He carried the leather envelope of a messenger. It went spinning across the ground with the force of his fall. His hair was stuck to his forehead with sweat.

The farmers formed a ring around the man.

One of them shouted toward a near house: "Miriam! Bring water!"

The urgency of his voice and the hubbub in the square drew wives and mothers out of doors. The small children jumped up on bench-backs in order to see. It isn't often that events break the easy routines of Bethlehem.

"A full skin of water!" The farmer squatted beside the messenger. "Take your time," he said. He helped the breathless fellow to a stone bench, then sat down beside him.

Miriam arrived. "Salmon," she said and handed a goat's bladder to her husband. Peering around the woman's skirts was a wide-eyed little girl, winding long hair around a forefinger. "Papa?"

Salmon tipped the messenger's head back and squirted a stream of water into his mouth. The poor fellow's eyes were red with September dust and salt sweat. Salmon poured water over the messenger's head, moistened the edge of his own tunic and washed the runner's eyes.

"Can you speak?"

The runner nodded, then croaked, "Yes." He paused a moment, then said, "A Levite ..."

"Take your time." "A Levite ..."

At the same time a tall man bent down, picked up the messenger's leather envelope and began to open its flap.

The messenger yelled, "No! Don't do that!"

Salmon looked up. "Boaz," he snapped. "Stop!"

Boaz showed no intention of stopping. He opened the envelope altogether. Everyone was watching him now. He glanced in. He shuddered and tipped the bag over and out fell a human hand.

Immediately Miriam grabbed her child and hurried away.

Men grew solemn; some of the women covered their mouths. Some stepped closer, disbelieving.

Yes. (Oh, Lord God!) It was a human hand chopped clean off above the wrist, its skin as white and as dry as ivory. The hand was loosely fisted. Two bones showed in the chop, the marrows shrunk into pits.

"Put it down," Salmon commanded. "Put it down!"

Boaz had regained his insouciance. "Shouldn't we burn it?" he grinned. "As an offering?"

The messenger raised his voice. "A Levite from Ephraim sent me to Judah and especially -" He stopped and swallowed. "Especially to Bethlehem," he said, and more softly, "to you. One of your daughters has perished."

A perfect silence fell on the village. Even the children who could not understand his words began to suffer their parents' distress.

He stood up, then took a stand on the bench. "I'm one of twelve who have been commanded to inform every tribe in Israel. This Levite, his wife -" the messenger grew stiff and emotionless. "The Levite's wife, whom you know as Milcah, was raped by the men of Gibeah. She is dead."

If dogs were skulking about the village square or goats running loose; if birds were fluttering in the dust, no one was aware of it. The sun sat down on its western ridge and reddened with regret.

So the Women of Bethlehem turned away and left the men behind them in the village square. They pulled the scarves from their heads and let the cloth fall in heaps. Older women bared their breasts and began to beat them in a slow rhythm. Others donned black, climbed the stairs to the roofs of their houses, and lifted their voices in lamentation. Rachel, weeping for her children.

While they wail above, one woman remains below. She has set her jaw, her chin thrust forward, her countenance hard-eyed and rigid. When she begins to move, the men make way for her. She kneels down. Tenderly she wraps Milcah's hand in her scarf. She rises and walks to the gate, to stone steps that take her to the watchman's room above.

Iron-eyed, she looks through the northern window. The wind begins to whirl her hair. She holds Milcah's hand, now respectfully clothed for burial, in both of hers and stretches it forth toward Gibeah. "Be not silent," she begins to sing in a level, deliberate rage:

Be not silent, God of my praise; for the wicked and the deceitful have assaulted her without cause. They reward her goodness with evil and her love with hatred.

The rest of the Women of Bethlehem hear a canticle of anger.

Naomi, they think, and they mute their miseries. For this is she. This is Bethlehem's Hakamah, whose song gives language to their bitterness.

Let their days be few - Let others seize their goods - Let their daughters be fatherless, their wives made widows! Let their sons be driven from a city destroyed into the countryside to tap with sticks the rims of beggars' bowls!

Naomi has lived thirty-five years on these upland hills. Sun and the unrelenting summers have scored her face with a thousand wrinkles. In repose her face is wreathed with the vines of kindness. But at this moment it is as severe and cracked as dry clay. Northward, even to Gibeah nine miles hence, the watchwoman of Bethlehem cries her curses:

Let no one - no one! - be kind to the wives of the wicked or pity their fatherless children. Cut them off from the earth, O Lord! Blot out their names by the second generation - For they did not remember mercy. They took the gentle Milcah and broke her soul to death.

The sun has concealed itself behind the farther ridge, spreading a fire of shame across the pillars of heaven. The hilltops grow ashen.

Naomi is a Mother in Israel, a Hakamah, the teller of the tales of Israel's past. She sings songs that name her people's bewilderment, songs to give order to the wild complexities of their existence, songs to collect their mute emotions into a spear of cursings or the milk of blessing.

Mine is an outcry against Gibeah. Come, O Lord, and judge the truth of my outcry. Send your angels. Send angels to destroy the wicked city. Long into the darkness Naomi keeps watch over Bethlehem. Finally, at midnight, she descends the stone steps and departs through the village gate and walks by memory the road to Rachel's tomb a mile northward. There she scoops out a dusty hole. Into its bed she places Milcah's hand, and prays.

But this is only one piece of her daughter. There are eleven more scattered throughout Israel, and who will love her well enough to bury those? What man could sever the corpse of his wife, even if for signs to alert the tribes of Israel?

Has such a thing ever happened in this land, since the days we came out of Egypt?

By his messengers the Levite cries out: Behold, people of Israel, all of you, give your advice and counsel here.

Which is to say: "To your tents, O Israel!"


Excerpted from Naomi and Her Daughters by Walter Wangerin Jr. Copyright © 2010 by Walter Wangerin, Jr. and/or Ruthanne M. Wangerin as Trustee of Trust No. 1.. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Naomi and Her Daughters 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
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TStephens More than 1 year ago
This book is a novel set in biblical Bethlehem and surrounding areas. The main character of the story is Naomi, a wise woman of Bethlehem who is skilled in medicines. When a close friend of her family is murdered in a neighboring tribe, a war ensues taking her family to a foreign land. During her ten years there, she welcomes two daughter-in-laws and says goodbye to her husband and sons, due to their passing, leaving Naomi broken. She turns away from God and with hardened heart returns to Bethlehem, followed by her daughter in law Ruth who shows Naomi much kindness and brings her back to "life." Ruth and Boaz fall in love, and with the birth of their son, bring the kindness back to Naomi's heart. This was a very powerful story. Though it was sometimes hard for me to read at times (I'm not very familiar with places of biblical reference), I could not put the book down. It was very suspenseful, emotional, and enjoyable. I liked that the novel was organized into parts to tell the stories that ultimately tied everything together. I think this book has something for everyone: history, romance, suspense, drama and more. I am looking forward to the next novel from Wangerin Jr. Disclaimer: I was provided an advanced reader copy of this book from Zondervan for free in order to write this review. All thoughts and opinions are mine and were not subject to editing from the publisher.
mrsred49 More than 1 year ago
Really interesting book about Naomi from the Bible. She had no daughters so she found a little girl at the well where they got their water named Milcah. Naomi finds that she had just lost her mother and her father had buried her under their house, he was a tanner by trade. Milcah was so afraid but she was too small to raise the lid from the well to get her water as she knew what he father would do to her. Naomi befriended her and got Milcah to trust her until she finally begin to take care of her all the time. When Milcah was a little older she was murdered on her wedding night and a hand was sent back. Then Naomi's husband and two sons are killed during the war and the only one she had left was her daughter-in-law Ruth.. The novel tells of Ruth's deep love for her mother-in-law. Since Naomi and her Daughters is a fiction retelling of the Old Testament story, it does not follow the same as the original. Some of the characters and details are altered. As you know if you read the Bible, that Naomi had three daughters-in-law when her sons and husband were killed, and two of them went back home to their families but Ruth stayed with Naomi. The novel lets you see Naomi as she walks through the field and sees all the dead soldiers around her and even helps to bury them. As it takes place over a long period of time, Wangerin really pulled it all together. This was a good read but a little hard to follow as it bounced around a little between the past and present but I found it to be a good book, as for me I love any Bible story. I received this book free from Zondervan as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.