Return to Me

Written by Lynn Austin
Review by Rebecca Cochran

The Biblical books of Ezra and Nehemiah are brought to life in this epic tale of faith and courage. After 70 years in exile, Israelites in Babylon are finally allowed to return to Jerusalem. Leading the return is Iddo, a priest who firmly believes in tradition and has always had faith that one day he will help to rebuild the holy temple. His family, on the other hand, struggles to understand his deep faith. They lack his insight, and find their new surroundings harsh, challenging, and unfamiliar.

Dinah, his wife, greatly misses the friends and family who chose to stay behind, and she struggles with the hardships of daily life. Zechariah, Iddo’s grandson, struggles to understand his family’s faith and how to fit in. And Yael, a young maiden who believes in the Babylonian Gods, must figure out how to reconcile the past with her future as a Jewish wife. By centering on just a few families, Austin recounts the trials the Jews encounter as they work to reestablish themselves in a world of mistrust and prejudice amongst the Samaritans. Amidst the personal struggles is the largest one of all: resistance, and refusal to allow the holy temple to be rebuilt.

This is a very interesting saga that spans many years of Jewish history. However, the amount of information Austin packs into the story makes it quite dense and hard to stay engaged the entire way through. At one point, the story jumps ten years, and another six, making the reader wonder what happened in those intervening years, and creating a bit of a jarring plot. While not as charming or fun as her typical Christian stories, this was still a noteworthy read, and I am glad it is the beginning of a new series.