Literary Hall of James GoodReads Review: The Long Guest
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Full disclosure. I received a free copy of this book for the sake of giving a review. I also follow the author Jennifer Mugrage on her WordPress blog “Out of Babel.” Having said that, I could have a bias. But the fact is “The Long Guest” rocks. It is a good example of historical fiction a favorite genre of mine.
The thing about any story, event(s) or time is that once completed its history but for those present within it it’s still a mystery. They don’t know how it will play out. They don’t have the luxury of being able to look back and see it from beginning to end. Hindsight is 20-20 but what’s next is a blur. So people simply react to survive as best they can to happenings beyond their control and comprehension.
The historical fiction that knows this best shows this best. It documents, details and delivers a fictional story that makes sense of the non-fictional history. It shows ordinary peoples’ response to extraordinary circumstances in a way that make today’s reader connect with yesterday’s personas. And it does this while critically examining the overriding historical realities that made their world the challenge that it was. This book succeeds at that.
The biblical narrative about the Tower of babel and its inevitable destruction provides the backdrop for “The Long Guest.” The tower’s collapse with its subsequent scattering of people throughout the earth and confusion of languages i.e. babel triggers a Japhethite’s family quest for a new home. And along the way they grudgingly welcome a Cushite guest to travel with them.
The Tower of Babel is etched into the book of Genesis after creation and the flood but before practically everything else. The story of the family and their guest begins around 10000 B.C. The family members alive at the start of the story are Noah’s great and great- great grandchildren who are descended from his son Japheth. Their guest a Cushite is descended from Ham.
The fictional account here examines how this world altering event’s hereafter affected everyone in general and this Japhethite clan (and guest) in particular. The story’s chapters provide diary like narratives from different family members and their guest. This gives a broader perspective than a single character’s first-person narration while it still maintains the intimacy of that same narrative device. The people themselves are believable and balanced.
I found the prologue helpful. The introduction of setting and people was a good reference point with which to understand the story. All told this is what I refer to as a “James Gang” member. It is an exceptional foray into biblical history. It is special. I’m not yet ready to include this into my “Hall of James” as a classic. But this is the introduction of a series. Can’t wait for the next one, which I will purchase.