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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

"Return to Me" by Lynn Austin

Return To Me

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.
Better than any book I've ever read, Return to Me answers the question, "What was it like to live then?"   Austin describes the fear, reservations, and confusion felt by the Israelites as they leave Babylon after a 70-year exile and return to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple.  Never have I thought that the Israelites might have any doubt about leaving the city of their long enslavement, nor that they might compare this prison term to the time they spent in Egypt, but Austin sets up a scenario where both happen - and makes it completely realistic and understandable.  The temptations to intermarry with neighboring clans, worship pagan gods, and bend God's rules become clear and logical from the standpoint of these characters.  While a fictionalized version, it makes sense to think about how and why these Israelites behaved as they did, and this explanation helps to understand their choices.
When I turned the first page of this book, I thought I'd get to read about Daniel, which made me sit up straight and read faster.  I'm fascinated with the way that Daniel refused to change a thing about his faith practices with God in spite of the scary situations all around him.
Reading about Iddo and Zechariah might have been even better, though.
I love the way that scripture is carried throughout the story.  I love how Austin's research is evident as she takes what we know and fills in the gaps to create a plausible story of love, temptation, forgiveness, and redemption.
Zechariah's story is inspiring.  As a priest, he would have studied the scriptures and known them well - but I never thought much about that before.  How did they study?  Who taught them?  How did they learn?  The memorization implied in the book is impressive - and makes me want to sit down and get to work.  
It is always hard to get to the end of a good book and know that I must leave the characters for a while.  It has been a long time since I have been this sad to turn the last page, however.  While we know the ultimate end to the Israelite story, I am enthralled at the details brought to life within these pages - and I can't wait until the sequel is released.
Lynn Austin
Bestselling author Lynn Austin has sold more than one million copies of her books worldwide. She is an eight-time Christy Award winner for her historical novels, as well as a popular speaker at retreats and conventions. Lynn and her husband have raised three children and live near Chicago.
I received a free copy of Return to Me from LitFuse Publicity in exchange for an honest review.

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