Stephen Gallup's Reviews > Rebekah

Rebekah by Orson Scott Card
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's review
Mar 02, 2011

really liked it
Read from March 02 to 15, 2011

I forget what I saw that prompted me to check out this author. My selection of this among his many titles was almost random. However, the preface alone confirmed that here was the product of someone thinking through questions that are important in life (e.g., "...people doing the best they can often get it wrong, and all you can do afterward is try to ameliorate the damage and avoid the same mistakes in the future. Good people aren't good because they never cause harm to others. They're good because they treat others the best way they know how, with the understanding that they have."). The first few pages (in which Rebekah, a niece of Abraham, tries to communicate with her now-deaf father via the radical notion of using written characters) also pulled me in.

Obviously, these 413 pages are an extrapolation from the Bible, specifically from Genesis chapters 24 to 27. (Incidentally, regardless of one's religious beliefs, I think knowing these stories is as important a part of cultural literacy as is knowing at least the plot lines of Hamlet and Macbeth.) Also obviously, the author brought in a huge amount of his own speculation regarding motivations and personal relationships among the people involved. I went back to the Bible to see how much basis it provides for the depiction of Isaac as being emotionally scarred by having almost been sacrificed by his father and by perceiving that his father preferred his older half-brother Ishmael, and for a similar sibling relationship to recur between Isaac's sons Jacob and Esau. I see no conflict between the accounts, so for all I know Card's depiction may be entirely accurate.

I did suspect, during many drawn-out dialogs in which Rebekah stands her ground in disputes with her husband and father-in-law, that this woman's place in the family was extremely unusual for the culture in which they lived. Her outspokenness and independence, and the men's very grudging acceptance, seem out of place. In wrestling with it, I even thought briefly of those execrable books by Jean Auel, in which Cro-Magnon people talk and act as if they lived in groovy California of the 1970s. That comparison is unworthy. Auel wrote trash and this is an earnest attempt at greater understanding. But I did have misgivings about that aspect of the story.

Aside from that, I enjoyed reading it very much.

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