cover image ABRAHAM: A Journey to the Heart of Three Faiths

ABRAHAM: A Journey to the Heart of Three Faiths

Bruce Feiler, . . Morrow, $23.95 (240pp) ISBN 978-0-380-97776-5

Feiler, who penned last year's bestseller Walking the Bible, once again offers a winning combination of history, travel and spiritual memoir. Arguing that Abraham, the purported "father" of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, "holds the breadth of the past—and perhaps the dimensions of the future—in his life story," Feiler sets out to recover Abraham as he is portrayed in all three religions. The book's first half addresses what the Bible and Koran say about Abraham, his call to monotheism, and his sons Isaac and Ishmael. Particularly fascinating are Feiler's discussions of how the three religious traditions invented stories about Abraham to supplement the rather skeletal canonical version—and even borrowed these stories from one another, as when Muslim traditions about Abraham and Ishmael began appearing in eighth-century Jewish commentaries. The second half very poignantly delves into each faith tradition and discusses how the Abraham narratives relate to contemporary religious and political conflicts. No one writes description quite like Feiler. His claim, for example, that "the Holy Sepulcher is to a church what Picasso is to a portrait—a cubist vision of fractured beauty" is an arresting and perfectly imagined analogy, and he mellifluously depicts the Arabic language as "flowing, evolved, [and] sculpted, like a dune." More important than Feiler's masterful wordsmithing is his passionate engagement of the subject matter. Italics are everywhere, yet they don't feel overused; Feiler has a keen sense of what is at stake when these three religions claim Abraham as their father. This is a joy to read. (Sept.)

Forecast: Walking the Bible has sold a quarter of a million copies in all versions and is still selling well— it occupied the second spot on PW's paperback religion bestsellers list in June. This book will get substantial boosts from national advertising, a 25-city author tour and additional author appearances. In October and November, the book will also be used as a springboard for interfaith discussions in as many as 100 U.S. cities.