cover image Seven Days to the Sea

Seven Days to the Sea

Rebecca Kohn, . . Rugged Land, $24.95 (395pp) ISBN 978-1-59071-049-4

Continuing her examination of biblical women, the sophomore effort from Kohn (The Gilded Chamber: A Novel of Queen Esther ) is a scrupulously researched but disappointing fictional account of the life of Moses, as told by his sister and his wife. At the novel's outset, Moses' sister Miryam has a divine revelation: the voice of God tells her "of a mission far greater than that of daughter, wife, or mother" and leaves Miryam with a vision of her unborn brother, "another Yoseph." Devoting herself to God's prophecy, Miryam delivers Moses to the Pharaoh's daughter Istnofret, in whom she finds a kindred spirit, willing to hire Moses' mother as his wetnurse. Sacrificing her own happiness, Miryam watches Moses grow up, find glory as Pharaoh's most beloved general and then fall from grace when his passion for justice leads him to murder. As Moses flees Egypt, his future wife, Tzipporah, takes over narration duties, chronicling the arrival of a strange Israelite among her shepherding clan and the gradual revelation of his identity, his destiny and his god. The story shines when describing Tzipporah and her clan or the wrathful deeds of Yahweh, but tends to focus too narrowly on familiar details of Moses' life. Kohn's women, especially Miryam, are fixated on Moses to a self-effacing degree, reducing them to fleshed-out vehicles for the biblical tale, rather than characters in their own right. (Mar.)