For those of us who grew up the younger sister of an outstanding older sibling, it is easy to understand the story of someone living life under a rather imposing shadow. Imagine if that shadow was cast by Moses, deliverer of the children of Israel, giver of the Law, and the guy whose face glows after he spends time with God on the mountain. How could his younger sister ever hope to have a life of her own?
Lois T. Henderson, however, changes the dynamic a little in her novel Miriam. In this book, Even though Moses' shadow looms large, Miriam is the protagonist. We see both her leprosy and her song of elation through her own eyes. We get a glimpse of the feelings she might have experienced during those events. We don't hear, in passing, that she's standing in the reeds as Moses floats downstream. Instead, we stand there with her, hovering protectively over her charge.
In Henderson's telling of the story, Miriam grows up in Pharaoh's house together with Moses, and shares in the life of luxury there. She has a prophetic gift that brings her a bit of notice in the early days, and even later, when her brother is already the center of attention.
Perhaps the most interesting bit in the whole story is the part Miriam played in the whole golden calf debacle. The retelling of that event from an (imagined) eyewitness perspective is quite nicely done, as is the whole of the novel. It is a prime example of Henderson's mastery of the craft of writing the Biblical novel.
Reviewed by Shelly Bryant © 2010