Naomi and Her Daughters by Walter Wangerin, Jr. is a fictional retelling of biblical events from the books of Judges and Ruth. Opening upon the recent brutal murder of Milcah, an abused motherless child whom Naomi unofficially adopted, the novel yo-yo’s between present and past events to reveal the tragic story of Naomi’s “first daughter” and the war that resulted. Toward the end of the novel, the focus shifts to the more uplifting, post-war story of Naomi’s widowed daughter-in-law Ruth and her love story with Boaz.
Wangerin is an iconoclastic storyteller, which results in Naomi and Her Daughters reading differently from a typical novel. It is written in third person omniscient, and events and facts are told to the reader instead of the reader discovering them within the plot and living vicariously through the action. Therefore, it is virtually impossible to connect with the characters and, thus, the story. Lacking in plot, the novel consists of scenes strung together, while constant time changes coupled with the sudden switch from one character to the next adds confusion. Several random Bible stories are injected throughout the novel, but they lack correlation to the current text.
Although based on Scripture, this is a dark novel, wherein God is portrayed as a far-away, almost unfeeling deity. Despite God’s favor returning to Naomi at the novel’s conclusion, it doesn’t alter the sense of distance from God felt throughout the book. The novel contains graphic violence and gratuitous vulgarities, thirty-five swear words (ten coupled with God’s name, which is also used as an explicative on its own), and countless extremely sexually provocative sayings and descriptions.
Any reader of Naomi and Her Daughters would most likely need a previous understanding of Old Testament figures and events, whereas those who do have the knowledge are less than likely to sit through such vulgarity. With small exception, the story as a whole is extremely depressing and, quite honestly, often offensive. – Emily J. Morgan, www.ChristianBookPreviews.com
From master storyteller Walter Wangerin, Jr. comes this familiar biblical saga told in a fresh, transfixing way. You’ll feel you’ve never heard it before! Melding historical accuracy with imaginative detail, Wangerin uses the biblical books of Judges and Ruth to explore themes of love, faith, grief and community set against a backdrop of war and political instability. The widow Naomi grieves the deaths of her two adult sons after the shocking murder of a beloved adopted daughter, while pondering her responsibilities toward her Moabite daughters-in-law. Ancient Israel is in chaos. When her daughter-in-law, Ruth, begs to return to Israel with Naomi, events are set in motion that will change the course of history. But wait…this isn’t the tame, flannel graph story you heard in Sunday School. In the tradition of Anita Diamant’s The Red Tent and Elissa Elliott’s Eve: A Novel of the First Woman, Wangerin imbues his tale with strong female characters and an earthy realism that gives the timeless Old Testament narrative so much power. You’ll find echoes of contemporary issues throughout: deceit, heartbreak, loss, war, and, of course, the power of love. Naomi’s combined strength and tenderness becomes the pivot upon which a nation turns; her decisions ultimately lead to the founding of the family lineage of Jesus Christ. Breathtaking descriptions, shocking violence, and inspirational courage make this spellbinding novel by a beloved award-winning author a story you won’t soon forget. It’s the perfect novel for your book group, and a satisfying read for those who love thoughtful biblical fiction.