Love Amid the Ashes
Mesu Andrews’ debut novel is ambitious; she sets herself the task of retelling the story of Job, the “good” man over whom God and Satan have a bet. In the fable-like Bible story, Satan says if Job wasn’t so blessed, if he had hard times, he would curse God. God suggests Satan try Job, do anything Satan wishes, but spare Job’s life. Thus begins the trial of Job: he loses his wealth, his children, his wife, his friends and is plagued with sores all over his body.
Unfortunately, what reads like a fable in the Bible becomes more difficult to accept in novel form. By sticking faithfully to the story, Andrews creates what is, basically, an unbelievable tale. In this retelling, the story is told from the points of view of two women: Job’s wife, Sitis, and his future daughter-in-law, Dinah. In an effort to re-create a story thousands of years old, using many names for Yahweh in a way that is confusing and bringing Sitis’ pagan beliefs under scrutiny, Andrews fails to breathe humanity into her characters, though she gives it a good effort. Her purpose here seems more didactic: she is more concerned with converting her characters to the “true” faith than with the story and the story’s ramifications. The book has promising moments and, hopefully, Andrews will feel more free next time to veer into her own story.