cover image After Abel and Other Stories

After Abel and Other Stories

Michal Lemberger. Prospect Park (Consortium, dist.), $16 trade paper (276p) ISBN 978-1-938849-47-3

Biblical stories and their female characters get an entirely new, often surprising perspective in Lemberger’s fiction debut. In each of nine independent narratives, Lemberger, a professor who teaches the Bible as literature at American Jewish University in Los Angeles, creates a complete world based loosely on the biblical accounts of the origins and history of the Jewish people. Unlike the original text, which typically gives a sentence or two to the female characters, she creates a full-fledged picture of those lives and shares the characters’ thoughts and actions. Included in the volume are stories about Eve; Zeresh, Haman’s wife; Yael, the Kenite woman who beheaded the Caananite general Sisera; and Hannah, barren but beloved, and Penina, fertile but hated, both of them wives to Elkanah. The stories are fresh and engaging, but Lemberger’s literary license may offend some more biblically conservative readers, such as when she portrays Hagar, Abraham’s concubine and mother of Ishmael, as a dimwit, and Lot’s wife as an accidental destroyer. Still, her knowledge of the Bible is evident and her creativity shines through as she weaves nine thoughtful and layered accounts of distant, complicated times. (Apr.)