THE SHADOW WOMEN

Angela Elwell Hunt, Author . Warner $19.95 (432p) ISBN 978-0-446-53011-8

Touted as rivaling Anita Diamant's The Red Tent, this novel by the prolific evangelical Christian author Hunt starts well, but falters toward the end. In a series of first-person narratives, the life of Moses unfolds through the eyes of three women: his sister Miryam, Egyptian foster mother Merytamon and young Midianite wife, Zipporah. Hunt's writing is at its most compelling as she recounts life in the Egyptian palace through Merytamon, capturing her fears of losing Moses if his Hebrew heritage is made known. Unfortunately, the novel suffers from glitches just as events are coming to a climax. When Moses kills an Egyptian overseer, the event seems contrived, and Hunt's recountings of the plagues God visits on the Egyptians range from spine-tingling to yawn-inducing. Chapters tend to be either too short (half a page) or too long (74 pages), and Hunt habitually tells rather than shows. Although there are brief revivals in the storytelling (as when Miryam sojourns in the wilderness while suffering from leprosy), the novel never quite regains its early momentum. Still, it's a much more CBA-friendly tale than Diamant's (a circumcision is described without the word "penis" being mentioned, for example), and Hunt's portrayal of Moses is more accessible and upbeat than Simone Zelitch's in Moses in Sinai . Hunt is one of the CBA's more polished novelists, and conservative Christian readers who dismissed The Red Tent for its edgy spirituality and frank sexuality will find little to quibble with here and much to enjoy. (Nov.)

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