Friday, February 21, 2014
'Seeker of Stars' by Susan Fish
As a boy, Melchior is fascinated by stars but has rigid obligations to apprentice with his rug-making father. When his life is radically changed, he is propelled onto a new path full of danger and glory in pursuit of a special star. The journey leads Melchior to reflect on life and death, dreams and duty, and to find unusual reconciliation within his family and with the God he never knew he sought. Destined to become a classic, Seeker of Stars offers a fresh retelling of the story of the magi, and will appeal to people of all ages and faiths.
The perfect time to read this novel would be in the lead-up to Christmas.
The start was great. We're introduced to Melchior, a young boy who lives in ancient Persia. Sadly, his lovely mother dies while giving birth to his sister, Daria, devastating the family, but they bond together in their grief.
Melchior's older brother, Salvi, is outgoing and loves flirting with the village girls. He gets the opportunity to join their fun-loving uncle Taz, living the adventurous life of a merchant.
Melchi himself, who is quieter and more reflective, would love to study the stars and their signs, as mathematics and astronomy stimulate him. His father thinks that's foolish and impractical, and insists that Melchi work in the family rug-making business.
Meanwhile, both brothers are smitten with Leyla, a very pretty and lively village girl. They also make friends with Reta, the quiet Hebrew girl who does their housekeeping, since their mother died.
Circumstances line up so that Melchi finally gets his opportunity to study with the Magi. I'm looking forward to every move, when suddenly the rug is pulled from under my feet. With no warning, the story jumps ahead several years. Melchior is now a man familiar with the layout of the university town and strangers he met there are brought before the reader as if he's known them for ages. Most disconcertingly, he's married to one of the girls from his past and we have no idea why that happened!
If I'd been reading a paperback, I would have checked to see if a large chunk had fallen out of the binding, but I have a kindle book. Reading on, the story explains what happened in the intervening years, but I still find it too jarring. Although I like the use of flashbacks as a literary device, I think in this case, they should have been introduced from the very start of the book. The sudden style change was far too big a jolt, as I'd got used to the chronological tale of his childhood.
Until that point, I would have given this book 5 stars for several reasons. The historical authenticity, the filial affection between the brothers and their love for their little sister, Susan Fish's sensitive and evocative writing style, the way in which Melchior becomes one of the wise men from the gospels. However, that seismic jolt to the future, and the disorientation and disappointment it caused, is something I think deserves a lower rating. So I'll go for the middle and choose three stars.
I want to make it clear that I loved Susan Fish's writing and I will definitely read novels more by her, as I assume they won't pull the same stunt again.
Thanks to NetGalley and David C Cook for a review copy.
Seeker of Stars available from Amazon