Joseph: Dreamer of Dreams
Joseph: Dreamer of Dreams opens with a six-year-old Joseph's view of Jacob wrestling with God. In typical Ellen Gunderson Traylor fashion, this offers a perspective of a familiar Bible story that I'd never before considered. It is not only interesting, but also comforting for those of us who grew up in Christian families to be acknowledged as a person who might have a very different reaction to the spiritual struggles of a parent than the one that is most often told publicly. Viewing Jacob's struggles through Joseph's eyes is a metaphor packed with material that invites further reflection.
Traylor's retelling of Joseph's story focuses on the process by which an outcast becomes the savior of his people. Obviously, this is a trope that appears frequently in Bible stories, most notably in Jesus himself. Again, Traylor taps into a powerful metaphor that runs throughout the story and allows us to reflect on larger spiritual truths – in this case, God's tendency to use the rejected things of the world to accomplish his work.
The novel also depicts Joseph as somethign of an early feminist, having grown up in close association with the women in his family. The character in the novel displays a respect for women that certainly wasn't the norm in the historical context in which the Joseph of the Bible lived. I would like to think that such things could be true – that throughout history there have been men who could rise above their upbringing, finding a way to be better than their times. If such men do in fact exist, Joseph would certainly have been a likely candidate. As Traylor's novel reminds us, he was a remarkable man with great strength of character, even (especially?) when the odds were stacked against him.
Reviewed by Shelly Bryant © 2015