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After years of watching his children and grandchildren wander from their faith, Iddo's prayers are answered: King Cyrus is allowing God's chosen people to return to Jerusalem. Jubilant, he joyfully prepares for their departure, only to learn that his family, grown comfortable in the pagan culture of Babylon, wants to remain.
Zechariah, Iddo's oldest grandson, feels torn between his grandfather's ancient beliefs and the comfort and success his father enjoys in Babylon. But he soon begins to hear the voice of God, encouraging him to return to the land given to his forefathers.
Bringing to life the biblical books of Ezra and Nehemiah, "Return to Me" tells the compelling story of Iddo and Zechariah, the women who love them, and the faithful followers who struggle to rebuild their lives in obedience to the God who beckons them home.

464 pages, Paperback

First published October 1, 2013

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About the author

Lynn Austin

46 books4,007 followers
For many years, Lynn Austin nurtured a desire to write but frequent travels and the demands of her growing family postponed her career. When her husband's work took Lynn to Bogota, Colombia, for two years, she used the B.A. she'd earned at Southern Connecticut State University to become a teacher. After returning to the U.S., the Austins moved to Anderson, Indiana, Thunder Bay, Ontario, and later to Winnipeg, Manitoba.

It was during the long Canadian winters at home with her children that Lynn made progress on her dream to write, carving out a few hours of writing time each day while her children napped. Lynn credits her early experience of learning to write amid the chaos of family life for her ability to be a productive writer while making sure her family remains her top priority.

Extended family is also very important to Austin, and it was a lively discussion between Lynn, her mother, grandmother (age 98), and daughter concerning the change in women's roles through the generations that sparked the inspiration for her novel Eve's Daughters.

Along with reading, two of Lynn's lifelong passions are history and archaeology. While researching her Biblical fiction series, Chronicles of the Kings, these two interests led her to pursue graduate studies in Biblical Backgrounds and Archaeology through Southwestern Theological Seminary. She and her son traveled to Israel during the summer of 1989 to take part in an archaeological dig at the ancient city of Timnah. This experience contributed to the inspiration for her novel Wings of Refuge.

Lynn resigned from teaching to write full-time in 1992. Since then she has published 27 novels. Eight of her historical novels, Hidden Places, Candle in the Darkness, Fire by Night, A Proper Pursuit, and Until We Reach Home have won Christy Awards in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2008, and 2009 for excellence in Christian Fiction. Fire by Night was also one of only five inspirational fiction books chosen by Library Journal for their top picks of 2003, and All She Ever Wanted was chosen as one of the five inspirational top picks of 2005. Lynn's novel Hidden Places has been made into a movie for the Hallmark Channel, starring actress Shirley Jones. Ms Jones received a 2006 Emmy Award nomination for her portrayal of Aunt Batty in the film.

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5 stars
2,516 (58%)
4 stars
1,289 (29%)
3 stars
406 (9%)
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27 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 461 reviews
343 reviews
October 27, 2013
Although I like all of Lynn Austin's novels, I really think that her biblical novels are her best niche. In this one, I felt I was walking beside Zaki throughout the story, seeing both Babylon and Jerusalem through his eyes, and with his thoughts and feelings. I have always felt that the story of the Isrealites parallels a Christian's life from being in captivity (in our case to sin) to wandering in the wilderness and eventually arriving the Promised Land. As such, I could see that the distractions the Jewish people faced after they left Babylon to rebuild the temple at Jerusalem are only slightly different in nature to ours today. And as patient and loving as God was then, not forsaking them even when they did not obey (is not slow obedience is no obedience at all?) He will wait for us today.
Well written, as all of Lynn Austin”s novels are, and definitely worth your time. Not a suspense story, yet I kept turning the pages to see how Zaki would respond to the challenges facing him.
This story resonated with me and I found a new appreciation for Biblical novels, God's love for me and for the Jewish nation.

"Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. Available at your favourite bookseller from Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group."
Profile Image for Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer.
1,718 reviews1,157 followers
June 24, 2021
A fictionalisation of the events of Ezra 1-6 including the prophecies of Haggai and Zechariah.

The book begins in Babylon, very close to the beginning of the end of the Jewish exile there. The story centres around (the biblical) Iddo – a Levite Priest still haunted by memories of the sack of Jerusalem, the atrocities he witnessed and what they mean for God’s relationship with his people.

In Babylon, in accordance with God’s instructions in Jeremiah 29 he has married (to a fellow Jew Dinah) and had two children (one of whom in turn had his beloved grandchild Zechariah) but while he still distances himself from the City in which he lives and yearns for a restoration of the Temple – his family and neighbours really see Babylon as home so that when, after the Persian conquest, King Cyrus declares that the Jews may return to Jerusalem only he really wants to go and eventually he travels without his two sons (whose promise to follow is a hollow one) but with the young Zechariah (who had a sudden vision from God that he should return), a resentful Dinah (reluctant to depart from her adopted home, her job as a respected midwife and above all her family) and a young girl they part care for after the death of her mother - Yael (who has, known only to Zechariah, a strong belief in the moon goddess and star divination).

In Jerusalem the hardship and opposition turns Dinah even further against Iddo, while Yael’s father settles near the Samaritans and Yael befriends a Samaritan girl and, to Zechariah’s despair, participates even more in divination and the other pagan practices the Samaritans have adopted alongside their worship of God (2 Kings 17: 33).

Over time Iddo begins (in something of the early stages of a Gospel message) to glimpse something of the importance of grace and forgiveness alongside judgement and punishment (partly through his need to forgive Dinah for an affair and partly due to realising how God views him) as well as the way in which the blessings of God can apply to all who truly believe him (helped here by a young Samaritan girl he and Dinah adopt after she is exposed by her family due to a deformity – these actions over time finally convince Yael that she does not share pagan values).

More importantly, Zechariah – after years of apparent silence - increasingly hears from God. This is portrayed very cleverly as him first of all quoting apparent scriptures and teachings which neither he nor others recognise but which have the mark of authority, before finally finding his voice as (and being recognised as) a prophet after the unknown Haggai begins to prophesy.

Overall I thought this was a fascinating and very enjoyable book. The complexity of the writing and the use of language are perhaps some way short of my normal literary fare – the author I think pretty well writes a book from start to finish, given the profligacy of her writing – but the subject matter and themes explored are so much further ahead in their eternal importance.
Profile Image for Christine Indorf.
661 reviews106 followers
February 3, 2020
I kept starting and stopping but I finally sat down and read it!! It only took 1 day when I got started!!! This story is the exodus back to Jerusalem from Babylon. Many decided to stay in Babylon and not go back. When they got there the Samaritan wouldn’t let them rebuild the temple. Instead following God will they followed mans will. Will they rebuild it?? Also this follows a family who return to Jerusalem. Will they also follow Gods will or will they turn their back to Him. A wonderful story of faith and the love of family.
Profile Image for Lori.
147 reviews3 followers
December 19, 2015
Lynn Austin has been one of my favorite authors for many years. I loved her Chronicles of the Kings series and now she is back with the first book in The Restoration Chronicles titled Return to Me. Austin brings to life the struggles the Jews had returning back to Jerusalem after being in exile. The few who survived the 70 years in exile were excited to return to their home, but for many Babylon was all they knew. They were born there and now they are to pack up all that was familiar and move to the foreign land of their ancestors. It is easy to question God’s motives when all you face is hardship.

While returning home some of the temptations of Babylon followed them all the way to Jerusalem. Some Jews found it easier to believe in what they can touch or see, instead of a powerful God who is not visible. It is easy to judge them and say that you would have handled the situation differently, but unfortunately I relate to their grumbling. Praise God he is faithful and merciful.

I love reading the history of the Jews returning to Jerusalem and Lynn brings to life the every day struggles they faced. I recommend Return To Me by Lynn Austin.
Profile Image for Emily.
36 reviews2 followers
November 6, 2013
Return to Me is Biblical fiction, and nobody does it better than Lynn Austin. Based on events of the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, it's the story of Jewish exiles returning to Jerusalem from Babylon after 70 years in exile. Ezra and Nehemiah are often skipped over because people think they are just history books without any relevance for today. But, in these histories, God's people face challenges similar to the ones we face today. They try to rebuild the temple despite conflicting messages from the government and interference from pagan neighbors. They try to stay true to their faith, surrounded by idol-worshipers.

The story gets off to an exciting start with Belshazzar's feast where Daniel interpreted the handwriting on the wall for the Babylonian king. Soon, Babylon is overrun by the Medes and Persians. The conquerors allow the Jews to return to their homeland, and they're given permission to rebuild the temple. Iddo is a priest who, as a child in Jerusalem, remembered the destruction of Jerusalem and being taken to Babylon. His grandson, Zechariah, is studying for the priesthood. Other characters include Iddo's wife, Dinah, and Yael, a girl who is being raised by her father with help from Dinah. Familiar Bible characters, like Haggai, make appearances as the story progresses.

This is the first in a new series, The Restoration Chronicles, by Austin, a Christy Award winner. I always enjoy her books because she has a gift for making you feel like you are part of the story. The setting comes alive for me, a tribute to Austin's diligent research of the Bible and commentaries. Although the story moves a bit slow at times, I recommend this book for anyone who wants to know more about Old Testament history. I can't wait for the next book in this series.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Bethany House Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Photo source and to purchase the book: http://bakerpublishinggroup.com/books...
Profile Image for Christy Ryan.
147 reviews9 followers
September 19, 2016
Loved this first book of the trilogy! If you loved Francine Rivers Mark of the Lion trilogy...you would love this too!
Profile Image for Loraine.
2,886 reviews
February 7, 2020
Lynn Austin always does an excellent job with Biblical Fiction. Well written with incredible historical and Biblical research, she brings to life the time period of the mid 500's BC as the Jews leave Babylon and return to Jerusalem. Her focus is on the family of Zechariah who will eventually become one of God's prophets. Although speculative, she brings the time period and the Biblical history to life with realistic and relatable characters including those of the Bible. This book gave me a better understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of the Jews as they changed from drifting away to a strong belief in God that led them to rebuild the Temple.
Profile Image for Ebookwormy1.
1,778 reviews246 followers
November 9, 2020
In the big picture I enjoyed how Return to Me by Lynn Austin made me think. The Biblical timeline and references at the conclusion caused me to dive into Ezra, Daniel, Haggai and Zachariah with new fervor, integrating details that had escaped me. In this sense, Austin’s work here has incredible value. The plot points drive this story, attempting to flesh out – not replace - the Biblical account. The redemptive story arcs are also encouraging as Austin shows how a person's rebellion, failure or fear can be forgiven, replaced or calmed by the LORD through later experiences and teaching.

Yet in the details, Return to Me was an unsatisfying read. I remembered the issues raised by a friend about Austin’s Chronicles of the Kings series, particularly a lack of ancient worldview in shallow characters, issues I’d been willing to overlook for the big picture advantages. This weakness continues in Return to Me, and I suspect will remain throughout the Restoration Chronicles. I wanted to *like* a character, but found it difficult. In the end, Zechariah is the only one that really sang to me, and yet, I had to keep reminding myself these people were a Levite family. Iddo’s Torah lessons were particularly well done, probably the most vibrant writing of the narrative, but somehow, the characters didn’t seem to live/ think/ breathe Judaism. Perhaps I’ve been spoiled by Bodie Thoene’s masterful portrayals of Jewish life in her Zion Chronicles and Zion Covenant.

Return to Me also disappointed because the writing in Austin’s other historical fiction is captivating. I loved the relational dynamic in Eve’s Daughters. Austin’s approach to the Civil War in Refiner’s Fire was deeply insightful. The second half of A Woman’s Place was a brilliant conclusion to solid character development and plotting. Perhaps respect for the Biblical text impedes Austin’s character development?

In the end, I bought this series on Kindle, and the Chronicles of the Kings as well, to give to my avid reading teenager. The big picture benefits are compelling to me, and I will read and review them myself as well. I will share this review and discuss the limitations, but I hope Austin’s Biblical historical fiction will ignite a deeper exploration of Scripture in young readers as it has in me. For examples of the best writing available, we’ll stick to classics.

On to the next title in The Restoration Chronicles?
Keepers of the Covenant (The Restoration Chronicles #2), Austin, 2014

Chronicles of the Kings Series, Austin

Zion Chronicles, Thoene

Zion Covenant, Thoene

Eve’s Daughters, Austin, 1999

Refiner’s Fire Trilogy, Austin, 2004

A Woman’s Place, Austin, 2006

On the second read through, Return to Me still comes in at 3 stars. However, I think after reading the rest of the series I had a greater appreciation for how Austin is trying to deal with trauma, nostalgia for another world/ life when moving in obedience to God, and the pull between culturally reinforced paganism and the God of Israel, who demands exclusivity. I guess what I'm saying is, the title has aged well, and I could see myself reading it multiple times in future. Additionally, I've re-read: Daniel, Ezra, Haggai and Zechariah.
Profile Image for Trevor.
55 reviews1 follower
March 3, 2017
This was the first of Lynn Austin's books I have read. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and will probably read more of her works in the future. This book is a fictional account of the first group of Jews to return to Jerusalem from captivity in Babylon. It is very true to the historical Biblical account. The reader is given an in-depth impression of the physical hardships endured and the spiritual pressures placed upon this band of people. I only have one little criticism: the frequent changes of point of view can take a little getting used to, but overall, this is a very well written and enjoyable account.
Profile Image for R.M..
Author 15 books18 followers
November 30, 2013
Return to Me by Lynn Austin

Writing historical fiction can be tricky. Because the book contains actual historical events, authors assume the risk that some readers will take every word written to be true. No matter how much research is done, an element of fiction can seep its way into a reader’s mind as fact (for example: pirates did not actually make prisoners walk the plank, nor did they bury treasure and mark their maps with an X). With regular historical fiction this has little lasting effect, when writing biblical historical fiction, the weightiness of the task should spur the author on to extensive research—not just on the biblical front to get the narrative, but also into the culture of the time period.

I received Return to Me by Lynn Austin from the publisher specifically for review. The story begins in the ancient city of Babylon. The Jewish people have been conquered and in exile for close to seventy years. When the Persians take over the city, King Cyrus allowed—even encouraged the Jews to return and rebuild God’s temple in Jerusalem. The book follows the lives of one of the families returning, Iddo, his wife Dinah, his grandson Zechariah, and “Zaki’s” friend Yael. Spanning more than twenty years, Return to Me takes us through the first few decades back in Jerusalem.

Return to Me is an enjoyable-enough story. It follows the biblical timeline well enough and gives good insight into the tensions and temptations that the returning Jews faced, especially in regard to their Samaritan neighbors. The characters are believable and likable. Each chapter is told from one of the four main characters’ points of view. It is sometimes difficult to remember who is who—the children both call their parents “Abba” and “Mama”—but it does not usually detract from the story.

My main issue with the book, though, is while the author did her scriptural research and consulted some commentaries, according to the acknowledgements at the end of the book, there seemed to be very little research done on Jewish culture of the time. All of the Jews in the story seem to be modern Jews going about modern lives.

The author has Zechariah going to yeshiva in Babylon. While there is no historical evidence of the Jewish religious schools in Babylon, it is not entirely out of the realm of possibility that the teachers and other elders may have set up some semblance of the religious school during that time in exile. However, there is not a yeshiva mentioned in history for at least 400 years after the exiles returned to Jerusalem. Still, that can be mostly overlooked. Unfortunately, that is not where the historical discrepancies stop.

Zechariah spends much of his time in the yeshiva studying for his bar mitzvah—the day when he would read the Torah in the house of assembly and officially become a man in the eyes of the community. He reads the Torah, and then they return to their communal family home to a very large banquet and party for friends and neighbors—which is how bar mitzvahs are celebrated in today’s culture. During their times of study, the men of the community also wear a kippah (yarmulke or a skull cap). These are both horribly period inappropriate—by nearly 1000 years, perhaps longer.

Instead of looking for husbands for daughters when they come of age in the Jewish culture (at age 12, or when puberty hits), teenage—and older—daughters are encouraged to wait until they are older to marry. For example, Yael comes of age during the migration from Babylon to Jerusalem, but her father waits more than ten years to marry her off. The mother of a 16-year-old girl holds off a marriage because she’s “much too young,” when, in fact, for the time and culture, she’s bordering on “old maid” status.

Austin may have simply been trying to equate what the modern reader knows about bar mitzvahs and current Jewish culture to her ancient characters. However, if that is the case, then it should have been stated at the end of the book in the acknowledgements, the author’s note, or a note from the editor. I was able to find out the above-mentioned three things were not period appropriate in less than five minutes on the Internet. As it stands, it gives the feel that the author may have decided that reading the Bible and commentaries on the text was the only research that needed to be done to write an accurate biblical historical fiction which, in my opinion, is lazy storytelling.

Austin, for reasons unmentioned, also decides to exclude Nehemiah and his rebuilding of the wall of Jerusalem in her narrative. While it is not crucial to her story, and I understand why she might have chosen to leave it out for the purposes of space and word count, the security of Jerusalem—even after the wall was supposed to have been built—is mentioned many times, making me wonder why such a miracle was left out. Large spaces of time—years, even a decade at one point—are skipped over in the book, during which the wall could have been built and Nehemiah return to his job as cup bearer to King Artaxerxes. This, however, would not leave the city completely undefended as is implied in the last few chapters.

For avid readers of and researchers into biblical culture and the biblical narrative’s cultural history, I would recommend against this book. The errors—while not earth-shattering—are mentioned continually and will leave the reader with the feeling that the author did not do her due diligence in her research for the book. For those who are not distracted by historically-inaccurate historical fiction, the book is well-written and the story well-told.
17 reviews
September 3, 2019
Een erg mooi boek!
Het geeft een goed beeld van het leven van Zacharia. De eerste paar hoofdstukken lezen echt als een roman. Maar later lees je steeds meer dat het een bijbelvast verhaal is. Een van de laatste hoofdstukken van dit boek wordt bijna letterlijk uit de Bijbel overgenomen. Hierdoor blijft het visoen dat Zacharia krijgt beter hangen.
Dit was het eerste boek uit een serie over Bijbelse profeten en ik kijk er naar uit om ook de anderen te gaan lezen.
Profile Image for Rachel.
2,740 reviews53 followers
March 18, 2020
This was a well written and interesting Biblical fiction novel set during the time when the Persians had overtaken the Babylonians and King Cyrus allowed a remnant of Israelites to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple. This novel takes what is known in the Bible about this period and expands on it. We follow the family in which the prophet Zechariah grows up and see the trouble that the Israelites have with the other people living near Jerusalem, the Samaritans in particular. I really enjoyed this novel and its characters, and I look forward to reading more of the series.
Profile Image for Allison C.
40 reviews
January 23, 2022
2.5⭐️ Not one of Austin’s best. The plot really dragged for most of the story.
Profile Image for Rachael.
38 reviews4 followers
July 27, 2019
My first Biblical fiction!

I started reading the second book in this series, and I like this one better so far because there aren’t as many MCs. When reading Biblical fiction you have to remember that part of it is fiction, but the other part should be accurate with the Bible.

Profile Image for Lisa Johnson.
2,563 reviews35 followers
October 14, 2013
Title: Return to Me (The Restoration Chronicles)
Author: Lynn Austin
Pages: 455
Year: 2013
Publisher: Bethany House
Lynn Austin is one of my “go to” authors when I want to read good historical fiction stories. This one is no exception. The story begins with Daniel explaining to the Babylonian king the meaning of the writing on the wall by the mysterious hand/finger of God, and the story proceeds from this point forward.
Iddo, his wife, daughter, two sons and their families all live together in Babylon. Iddo is old enough to remember when as a small boy the Israelites were taken into captivity and the destruction that went along with that. He is of the priestly line of Levites that performed music at the temple. Once in Babylon, he continued to practice prayers and taught his sons the way of priests, but he was too young to play any instrument. The time has come to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple as the Persians have conquered the Babylonians and set the exiles free. Iddo is excited to return to Jerusalem and begin serving as a priest after the temple is rebuilt, but he is disappointed that the rest of his family wants to stay in Babylon with the exception of his grandson Zechariah.
Upon their return, the Hebrews are not welcomed by the Samaritans who have been farming and living in Jerusalem the last 70 years. The Samaritans view the land as theirs and are not willing to just give it up. What ensues are various skirmishes between the Hebrews and Samaritans and sometimes between the Hebrews themselves with some serious outcomes. Zechariah longs to keep his best friend Yael from practicing astrology as he knows the penalty is death if she is discovered. Dinah, Iddo’s wife, wants to return to her children and grandchildren left behind in Babylon and questions why the Hebrews even returned to Jerusalem in the first place. Iddo serves God unwaveringly, but why? Is it out of fear or love? Can Yael turn from the darkness that has been a part of her life for such a long time and enter into a relationship with the one true God or will she be enticed to delve further into sorcery? Can Dinah find a new purpose in Jerusalem or will she grow bitter with longing for Babylon?
This is a good start to a new series. It is kind of slow in some parts, but I understand the groundwork must be laid for future stories. I really liked the character of Zechariah with all his human faults and fears. I enjoyed the historical as well as many biblical references about this time in Jewish history. I found the story very interesting and look forward to the next book in the series. I would recommend this book, but be aware that it is over 450 pages long. Neither the reading nor the terminology is difficult, but this isn’t a story to be read in one sitting. This is a fine start to a new biblical series based on the Old Testament, and I hope that readers will take the time to enjoy learning something new from something old.
My rating is 4 stars.
Note: I received a complimentary copy for an honest review of this book. The opinions shared in this review are solely my responsibility. Other reviews can be read at http://seekingwithallyurheart.blogspo... . Also follow me on Twitter @lcjohnson1988, FaceBook at https://www.facebook.com/lisa.johnson...
Profile Image for Hayden.
Author 7 books162 followers
October 3, 2013
The strength of this book was probably the fact that you can tell that the author has been to the Holy Land; many of her descriptions were very detailed about Israel and its culture. Though I’d need to re-read the books of Zechariah, Haggai, and Ezra before saying whether or not it was accurate to the Biblical accounts, nothing stood out as being grossly inaccurate. (And the Bible references used in this story are located in the back of the book, so you can easily look them up)

I really wanted to like Iddo, but I just couldn’t. He just seemed really pushy to me, and I know it sounds terrible because nothing is more important than the Lord, but many times he seemed more concerned with building the temple than with his family. I did like Zechariah, but all of the characters annoyed me at one time or another. Sometimes I wanted to shake Yael and *SPOILER* when she finally gave up her sorcery and turned to the Lord, it seemed as if her entire personality changed like that*END OF SPOILER* I also didn’t care for that near the latter half of the book, several years were skipped. It didn’t bother me when it went from when Zechariah was a boy to when he was an adult, but after that when it skipped I felt a little disappointed.

I know I’ve complained a lot up, there, but really the book wasn’t that bad. Judging for the book description, I didn’t think Return to Me would interest me much, but I was wrong- though it’s a very long book, and it kept me interested the entire time. Also, I’ve always been fond of Lynn Austin’s writing style, even when I haven’t particularly cared for her storylines. Return to Me isn’t one of my favorites by the author, but I’m sure I’ll still read the other books in this series.

Objectionable content: one character is involved in sorcery, and she mentions false gods and astrology often; several “thematic elements,” such childbirth, child sacrifice, and some of the Torah’s laws about sexual immorality are mentioned. A book for 16+

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.
Profile Image for Brenda.
1,147 reviews15 followers
October 14, 2013
"Return To Me" pulls the reader back to Biblical days when the Israelites were leaving Babylon headed back to Jerusalem. The author's rich details not only to place and time but the detail that she provides with the characters and their daily lives really allows this story to come to life. While the main characters of the story were interesting it was the story of the prophet Zechariah that really grabbed me, it was so interesting to see his transformation boyhood to eventually becoming a prophet. As a fan of Biblical fiction I found this a compelling read, I was actually a bit intimidated with this book at first after all it's over 400 pages and I wondered how the author might hold my attention,but the story flows so well, and the story was so compelling that there really was never a down time. The author's attention to detail, along with holding closely to Biblical truth really made this a stand out story for me. Overall, this was a story that not only brings the Bible to life, but also tells the story in such a way that makes the characters seem very real, instead of ancient people that are hard to understand. After reading this book I was compelled to pull out my Bible and read the stories in the Bible. I think this book would make a wonderful group read, and if you're a fan of historical fiction that gives wonderful glimpses of faith, love, and choosing the right path, that just happens to take place during Biblical times then you really should check out this story.
Profile Image for Faith.
Author 41 books206 followers
February 25, 2019
Title: Return to Me
Written By: Lynn Austin
Genre: Biblical Fiction
Recommended Ages: 15 & up
This book was a fresh take on the prophet, Zechariah. I have read the book in the Bible by him, but didn't know much more than that. I enjoyed reading this book and the author's idea of how he might have lived.

Characters: 1/1
There were a lot of characters in this book. But I think my favorite was Iddo, Zechariah's grandfather. He was complex and also very human. He made mistakes, but when they were pointed out to him, he repented quickly.

Dialogue: 1/1
The dialogue was well-written and while modernized some, still fit the time period very well.

Plot/storyline: 1/1
This book covered a long period of time and I really liked how well the author jumped ahead without making us feel like we missed something.

Overall writing quality: .75/1
The writing was well done and I thought she handled the many situations very well.

Un-put-down-ability: .75/1
This is a hard one to rate. In some ways it was hard to put the book down, but at other times, I needed to to give myself some time to process everything happening in the book. So we'll do 3/4ths of a star.

Conclusion: 4.5/5
I really liked this book. Even more so because I read it second instead of first and had gotten to know a couple of the characters when they were older and then got to see their background a bit more. I don't always like Biblical fiction, but I do like this book.
Profile Image for Heather.
954 reviews7 followers
November 25, 2018
Lynn Austin is a gifted writer. Each of her books that I've read has a religious or moral lesson, but this one contains lessons that are a little more direct as it's a historical fiction set in Babylon and Jerusalem in 586 to 520 BC. Most of the story centers around the time that some of the Jews were called to return from Babylon to Jerusalem (after the Babylonian destruction and captivity) to rebuild the temple. There are some great lessons here that can apply to us today and how we love the Lord. Here are some of my favorite quotes:

"The terror that had destroyed Jerusalem was the Almighty One's punishment. All of the prophets had said so. God no longer dwelled with His people because they'd been unfaithful to Him. His temple was destroyed. His people scattered among the nations, living among pagan gods. Iddo's only hope, his family's only hope, lay in studying God's Law, filling his heart and mind with the Torah, obeying every word of it every day of his life. If he sought the God of his fathers with all his strength, maybe the Holy One would show mercy and return to His people again (p. 18)."

"'Abba, you of all people should know that prayer isn't a magic formula. The Holy One doesn't do our bidding. If He did, we would still be living in Jerusalem and offering sacrifices at the temple, not living here in Babylon (p. 30).'"

"She should pray for the Almighty One's blessing on Rachel instead of dabbling in pagan astrology. He had forbidden her to have any more to do with their neighbors' sorcery (p. 34)."

"'We're praying for the Almighty One to work a miracle so we can go home (p. 37).'"

"'The Torah says their body stays here in the ground but their spirit keeps on living in a different place... The Torah doesn't tell us about the afterlife because we're supposed to pay attention to how we live now, so that we'll be ready for eternal life (p. 59)."

"'What good are prayers?'
'How will our people continue in the faith if young men like you and my sons keep drifting away?'
'I have to work to pay my bills and feed my daughter (p. 64).'"

"'The Persian king announced that he is allowing our people to return home to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple (p. 68)."

"'Do you know why God is allowing us to return? Because of His grace and love. He will forgive us and dwell among us again (p. 70).'"

"'If we don't obey the Almighty One and rebuild our temple, we'll be separated from Him forever (p. 73).'"

"'All of you were born in Babylon. You all grew up here where sights like these now seem like everyday things to you. But more and more young women from our community are being enticed by Babylonian men. More and more of our sons are being attracted to Babylonian women. In another generation or two, this is where our sons and daughters and grandchildren will be coming to worship. And they'll think nothing of it (p. 76).'"

"'Ask God for guidance. From now until the day we leave, every morning when you pray, every time you go to the house of assembly with me, ask the Holy One to show you what He wants you to do. Then listen for His voice (p. 85)."

"God was calling him to leave Babylon and follow Him (p. 91)."

"'Why is it so impossible to follow God?'... 'It's hard...that's why so few people do it. But it's not impossible (p. 98).'"

"'He doesn't need to send manna this time... He already provided everything we need through our fellow Jews, the ones who aren't making the journey with us. The Persian king ordered them to pay our way (p. 106).'"

"Zechariah thrilled to know he was following in Abraham's footsteps, retracing the path that the patriarch had taken when he entered the Promised Land for the first time. Like Abraham, he had obeyed God and left his father and mother to make this journey (p. 113)."

"'That's Jerusalem down there--what's left of it.' 'It doesn't look like a city... Where are all the palaces and temples and big buildings like they had in Babylon (p. 114)?'"

"'We've been commanded by God and by the king to rebuild the Holy One's temple, and that's our most important task (p. 119).'"

"'The temple must come first. The very first thing that God commanded our ancestors to do after leaving Egypt was to build His sanctuary. The people camped below Mount Sinai in tents until it was finished. Building His sanctuary must be our top priority, too (p. 120).'"

"'These trumpets will announce the appointed feasts and New Moon festivals and will be an important part of our worship. The Torah says that the sound of the trumpet shall be a memorial for us before our God. We need you and your sons to carry on the tradition of your forefathers (p. 133).'"

"'Think of all the generations who will live after you because you had the wisdom to stay hidden (p. 139).'"

"'When God created the paradise of Eden, He said that everything was good except for one thing--it was not good for the man to be alone. So He created Eve to be Adam's helper. And He gave you to me when I was all alone. Do you know what that word helper really means?... It means so much more than simply baking bread and sharing my bed. Moses used the same word to describe what God does for us. 'He is your shield and helper and your glorious sword.' You're stronger than I am, Dinah. You always have been. I need you in the days ahead to help me face all of my battles. I'm so blessed to have you by my side (p. 143).'"

"'Some of our Samaritan neighbors are a little...discontented... They see us as invaders (p. 157).'"

"'We sacrificed what we had so that they can have a better future. So they can worship the Almighty One in His temple (p. 161).'"

"'We won't forget them. But the Almighty One told us to come here, and we chose to obey Him. Blessings come from obedience. Sarah and Abraham left their families, and didn't God bless them (p. 162)?'"

"'We all have a little too much Babylon in us (p. 165).'"

"'He sure has a lot of rules to remember... Doesn't He know it's impossible to obey them all? Besides, I don't see why we need to rest for a whole day. I'm not tired (p. 166).'"

"'All you ever talk about is the Torah. Don't you get tired of studying sometimes? Don't you want to do something different for a change (p. 179)?'"

"'They're idol worshipers... they don't worship the same God we do (p. 180).'"

"'Priests of God have no business going to pagan celebrations (p. 183).'"

"The worst image from the festival that he hadn't been able to erase was of Yael telling fortunes beneath the stars (p. 189)."

"'Do you believe that the Almighty One called you to follow Him? To return to Jerusalem and become a man of God?' 'Yes...I believe it.' 'You know that following God means all or nothing, don't you? A man of God does the right thing whether it's popular with the rest of the crowd or not. He speaks the truth and isn't afraid to challenge others when they're doing wrong. Men of God don't look for power or riches or man's approval but for God's approval. Each day in a hundred different ways you must choose all over again whether you still want to follow Him or not (p. 198).'"

"'Don't you see that anything we put in place of God or that keeps us from serving Him with all our heart and strength is an idol? Even if it's our own children and grandchildren (p. 207)?'"

"'I've done everything you asked me to do, Iddo. Followed all the rules, made the sacrifice of this move, started my life all over again. But there's no meaning in what I do. No life from it, no joy. I used to be so satisfied, so full. Now I simply do what you expect of me. Don't ask for more, because I don't have anything left to give.... 'And so now you're simply going through the motions without love in your heart?' 'There's nothing in my heart, Iddo. My heart is still in Babylon. But I could ask you the same question. Why are you enduring all this hardship? Why do you want to perform all those rituals at the temple? Is it from love or from duty? Is it merely to appease the Almighty One because you fear more punishment if you don't?' Iddo didn't know what to say. Was it true that he served God only out of fear? Could he say that he loved God or that he believed God loved him? He wanted Dinah to walk beside him because she loved him--was it possible that God wanted the same thing (p. 209)?"

"'All you think about is appeasing your God. What about the people in your life? You accuse me of making them into idols, but you don't care about them at all. People aren't important to you. Does your God see us as His slaves who are required to wait on Him at all costs? Even at the cost of the people we love?' 'Of course we aren't slaves. But we should be willing to sacrifice everything for Him (p. 210).'"

"'The booths remind us of how temporary our lives are... How we are strangers and sojourners in this world. And they remind us how very much we depend on the Almighty One for all our needs. It was too easy to forget Him when we were settled in Babylon living comfortable lives (p. 223).'"

"'Where are you, Lord?... Why can't I feel your presence anymore? Why did you ask me to leave my family and come here? What do you want from me?... And why won't you tell me (p. 230)?'"

"'Rebuilding the temple is what we came here to do... And praise God, we're doing it at last (p. 235)!'"

"Iddo couldn't help shouting for joy, so loudly that his throat grew hoarse. The Almighty One had kept His promise. He had forgiven them and restored them. Iddo would worship and serve God at this temple for the rest of his life when it was finished. He had witnessed the horror of the first temple's destruction as a child, never dreaming that he would live to see this day. With the sound of deafening praise enveloping him, Iddo stood on the platform sounding his shofar, certain that the noise could be heard far, far away (p. 236)."

"The high priest couldn't possibly allow the half-pagan Samaritans and local people to worship alongside them, much less rebuild with them. It was unthinkable (p. 240)."

"'It isn't practical to remain separate. We are too few. We need them (p. 246).'"

"'How can we be a blessing if we shut everyone out and refuse to let them worship with us (p. 252)?'"

"'We're all mothers with families--we can better understand the Almighty One's love. We should be telling our neighbors about His grace, not turning them away in anger (p. 262).'"

"The local people would never make peace with them. Work on the temple had halted for lack of supplies and workers. No one would sell food to the Jews. Why not admit defeat and go back to Babylon? The Almighty One was clearly against them (p. 270)."

"Why else would His people suffer so much trouble? Where was the God of miracles who had parted the Red Sea and destroyed their enemies during the first exodus? Iddo had come to Jerusalem to be a priest, to serve God. He had wanted to undo the mistakes of his forefathers and rebuild the temple, teach he laws of the Torah. Instead, his sacrifice had cost him his children and how his wife. Why would God snatch his family away from him a second time (p. 275)?"

"God wanted his love, wanted a relationship with him, not mere obedience to the law (p. 276)."

"The Almighty One had forgiven him and offered him a second chance. No one could keep all 613 of the Torah's laws perfectly. No one. Especially Iddo. He had tried and tried, and yet measured against the plumb line of the Torah, he always fell short. That's why he bowed before God every year on Yom Kippur and confessed his sins. That's why priests offered sacrifices twice a day. Iddo didn't deserve God's mercy and grace, but He offered it to Iddo just the same. What did God want in return? Offer more sheep? More calves and lambs and grain offerings? Forgive her (p. 276)."

"His love endures forever...His love endures forever...His love endures forever...God hadn't left them in their sins in Babylon, separated from Him. They were here in Jerusalem by His grace--with a job to do, a temple to rebuild (p. 277)."

"Was God's law more important than His love (p. 278)?"

"'God also gives us the freedom to leave His embrace and go our own way. He won't force His love on us (p. 280).'"

"'God is more powerful than the stars, Yael. He's the one who gets to decide such things (p. 291).'"

"'Why won't the Holy One help us?... He could do miracles (p. 307).'"

"'Do you remember how God tested Israel in the wilderness? How He wanted to see what was in the people's hearts--fear or faith? God already knows what's in our hearts, of course, but He tests us so we'll see it for ourselves. Our forefathers should have used their time in the wilderness to learn from God, to learn that He would lead them and provide for them and fight for them. But they didn't... Only Joshua and Caleb had faith...' 'Don't be afraid of the people of the land...God is with Israel (p. 309).'"

"''Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting...but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised (p. 320).''"

"'We make our own destiny...through our own power and strength. I don't believe in gods or stars or religion (p. 341).'"

"'We all want to meet God in a dramatic way like you did on the day of your bar mitzvah. But instead, the Almighty One quietly reveals himself to us in His Word. As you study it every day, you hear His voice and you see Him. You learn to know Him (p. 370).'"

"'We need to rebuild the temple... Not because King Cyrus told us to, but because we long to meet with God. Because we love Him and are incomplete without Him (p. 374).'"

"'The Almighty One wants our love, Saba, not guilty obedience. That's what's been missing in my life--love. Instead of waiting for God's presence to come to me again, He wanted me to pursue Him the way the Torah says to do, with all my heart and soul and strength. Following rules and offering sacrifices is meaningless without love (p. 374).'"

"'Our worship at the temple demonstrates the way we find fellowship with God (p. 383).'"

"'I believe God wants us to live in such a way that we'll draw all men to Him. So they'll give up their idolatry and find the living God (p. 383).'"

"'We all need to become examples (p. 384).'"

"'I tried to control my future because I didn't know God or trust that He had me in His care (p. 392).'"

"'You've found joy because you're doing God's work (p. 394).'"

"'You need to pray the way you did as a boy and ask God to give you the answer. Ask Him to tell you what you should do (p. 396).'"

"'We need to do what the Holy One said! Our fathers didn't listen to the prophets, but we need to listen to Haggai! The Holy One has been waiting for us to get desperate enough to seek Him--and today we finally did. He answered through Haggai, His messenger (p. 399).'"

"''I am with you.' That's what He's telling us (p. 400).'"

"'Why not trust God--who brought us out of captivity in Babylon by His might hand--and begin building?' Haggai asked (p. 401)."

"'Why does the Holy One need this temple?'.... 'We're the ones who need it, not Him. It's a place where our sins can be forgiven so we can approach the Holy One. A place where we can meet with Him and recover the fellowship we lost in Eden.'.... 'But do we really want the Holy One to be with us?... Do we want Him badly enough to work with all our strength in spite of persecution or threats from our enemies? Is our longing so great that we're willing to defy an emperor's decree (p. 403)?'"

"''Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever (p. 406).''"

"'I've been searching for Him all my life, and ever since I discovered that I could know Him through the Scriptures, I've been reading and studying them with renewed diligence (p. 407).'"

"''Return to me!' We've slowly drifted away from Him and become distracted by things in our lives that just aren't important. We've allowed fear of our enemies and our own lack of faith to distance us from Him. We've been enticed away from Him by the temptations of the surrounding nations, first Babylon and now here. God says, 'Return to me.' He's waiting to bless us when we do (p. 410).'"

"'I was an eyewitness to God's wrath and the destruction of Jerusalem. And also an eyewitness to His miracle that allowed us to return. If the Almighty One brought us here, and if we walk in obedience to Him, then He promises to give us victory over our enemies and send rain in due season. But for the past few years we've wanted peace with our enemies more than we've wanted God (p. 413).'"

"'He revealed to them exactly how to build this sanctuary and the people obeyed, freely offering their treasures of gold and silver and precious stones, fine linen and wood and spices. Today we're again obeying the Lord's command to build His sanctuary, even as our enemies try to stop us... Do you trust God? Are you willing to obey Him, no matter the cost? Because this time the Holy One's dwelling place may cost not only our gold and silver but our lives... Will you offer up your fear and let Him replace it with faith (p. 430)?'"

"The temple was finished. Complete. Rebuilt from the ashes seventy years after the Babylonians destroyed it. He thought back to all the events that had led to this day.... 'I've been standing here praising God that I've lived to see this day (p. 449).'"

"'The Holy One wants our devotion, not our gold (p. 451).'"

"This wasn't the end. It was only the beginning (p. 455)."
233 reviews12 followers
March 23, 2017
I can honestly say that this is one of my favorite works of fiction. I really enjoyed the writing style, and I appreciated that the characters were real. None of the characters came across as so holy that they couldn't possibly have any real problems. I started a book by Lynn Austin a few years ago, and was really enjoying the book. Unfortunately it was a library book and I never got to finish it. I was so disappointed and when I went to reserve it later I found out it was lost. The library no longer had it on their shelves. I was so disappointed because I had connected with the characters in the first chapter and had only made it to chapter three before I had to return it. I had forgotten about this author until I was perusing books in a book store. I was reminded of what a delight she was to read and quickly purchased this book Return To Me. It didn't take me long to remember why I liked this author so much. I can definitely say that her writing style is one of the most appealing ones that I have read. I don't read much fiction, but I can honestly say that Lynn Austin is one of my favorites. In fact, she has helped me enjoy fiction again with her real characters and her engaging writing style. I would recommend this book and the other two in this series to anyone who enjoys reading about characters who are real with real problems and real habits, good and bad. Thank you Lynn Austin. Keep up the good work.
Profile Image for Jenny Hartfelder.
421 reviews4 followers
January 6, 2022
While not a perfect book, I really enjoyed getting a picture for what it may have been like for the Jewish exiles to return to Jerusalem from Babylon. I've never given much consideration to that time period, and I found it thought provoking. When faced with leaving my family behind, would I have wanted to return and build despite the hardships... or stay in Babylon with the comforts of home? 🤔 I also gained a greater compassion for the Jews' challenge in keeping their faith strong and pure in the midst of a foreign nation.

I personally struggle in reading the major and minor prophets, so I appreciated the glimpse into the context of which some of those books were written and what it may have been like when the revelations were initially given. Overall, I found this to be a good read, particularly in helping me to better understand this unique period of Jewish history.
Profile Image for Ron Wiebe.
1 review1 follower
January 3, 2021
This was an excellent read! It was inspiring as well as convicting. Lynn Austin did an excellent job of taking the Biblical character of Hezekiah and makes his story come alive in this historical fiction. The author has done an amazing job of staying true to the Biblical texts and has added a lot of meaningful context and emotion to the characters. So often when I read the Bible I imagine that many of the people written about are somewhat surreal in their spirituality. This novel is a good reminder that the people written about in the Bible are as human as we are today. They also face very similar trials as we do today. These trials range from family and marriage conflicts to political division caused by economic issues. It was a good reminder that people have endured trials through the ages, and the story of God redeeming His people is woven through it all!
Profile Image for Cassandra.
1,384 reviews22 followers
June 20, 2022
This book makes Biblical history come alive.

Favorite quotes -

"He created Eve to be Adam's helper. And He gave you to me when I was all alone. Do you know what that word helper really means?... It means so much more than simply baking my bread and sharing my bed. Moses used the same word to describe what God does for us. 'He is your shield and helper and your glorious sword'" (143).

"That's why we have an altar and daily sacrifices, so we'll have a way to come to the Holy One and ask for forgiveness. That's why our word for sacrifice also means to come near - to have a close relationship with someone" (293).

"You've found joy because you're doing God's word. And I'm trying to tell you that I've found joy, too. Because it we obey God, then our lives do have meaning, even if all He asks us to do is cook lentils and raise children" (394).
Profile Image for Christine Dillon.
Author 16 books153 followers
March 17, 2020
Enjoyable read of a period that was good to think about. I especially appreciated the different responses that Jewish people would have had to leaving Babylon. Their thoughts and reactions were realistically portrayed.
Plan to read more of the series and more of Austin's biblical fiction.
Profile Image for Melissa Wohlgemut.
101 reviews15 followers
December 23, 2020
I feel the struggle. I had to put the book down many times because I was frustrated with the obvious rebellion and hated the parallel to my own life. I am so thankful for the faith of the saints and the grace of our Father.
23 reviews
September 10, 2022
I found it hard to stay engaged with the characters and writing in this one. After reading others' comments, I kept at it and really enjoyed the last chapters. Did a lot of skimming in the middle though.
Profile Image for Megan Calkins.
8 reviews
December 30, 2022
This was so sweet to read at the same time going through the book of Ezra!!! Felt realistic to the time period (I think haha) and brought to life the struggle of humanity to wait on God and trust Him when you can’t see what He is doing.
My faith has been deeply encouraged!!
Profile Image for Robin Sampson.
Author 9 books43 followers
June 27, 2021
Excellent read

Loved this book! I read it shortly after studying the return to Israel from Babylon. This made my study so much more because I felt like I was walking in Israel.
706 reviews1 follower
December 13, 2022
Such an excellent example of Christian fiction! Allows one to picture the struggles of the Israelites as they straggled back to their homeland.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 461 reviews

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