The Song of Hannah
First-time novelist Etzioni-Halevy puts flesh on the bones of the Old Testament story of Hannah. As related here, Hannah and her girlhood friend Pninah become rivals for the love of the man they both marry, Elkanah.
The sensual, physically exciting Pninah becomes Elkanah’s first wife; later he marries the good and devoted Hannah. Frustrated and unhappy at being barren while Pninah is fruitful, Hannah promises God that if given a boy child, he will be dedicated to God. When she indeed bears Elkanah a son, she takes him to be raised and educated at the temple. Extraordinarily gifted, this beloved child becomes the great Hebrew judge and prophet Samuel. The novel follows these characters through years of love and betrayal, wars, childbirth, secret longings, uneasy alliances, forgiveness and reconciliation. Ultimately, Hannah and Pninah each come to appreciate their lot in life and to take mutual comfort and joy in Samuel.
With a rich, flowing narrative brimming with details of life in ancient Israel, and enlivened by humanly flawed characters, the author has woven a satisfying and inspiring story of love and devotion that has lasted through the passage of time.