THE HOLY EMBRACE by Mario Brelich


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 Italian author Brelich, whose previous book focused on the biblical Noah's post-deluge alcoholism (Navigator of the Flood, not reviewed), now tackles the conjugal union of Abraham and Sarah in a verbosely written ``novelized essay.'' Actually, Brelich (191082) sees the relationship as a sort of mÇnage Ö trois among Abraham, Sarah, and God: Abraham takes the role of submissive subordinate (sometimes to God, other times to Sarah); Sarah plays the first stereotypical frigid Jewish princess; and God appears as a somewhat muddled and histrionic divinity. The story focuses on the events leading up to the birth of Isaac. It begins charmingly with God appearing to Abraham after an absence of 14 years and Abraham noting that divine revelations are ominous when everything is going well. God then informs Abraham that he and Sarah are to have an heir, at which Abraham laughs--they are both nearly 100 years old--angering his creator. When Sarah hears the news, she also laughs, but according to Brelich, it is God who has the last laugh--on humanity. Culling the story from the Bible, commentaries, and his own invention, the author manages to tell his readers what they probably already knew from their own reading of the text--that Abraham was a wimp, Sarah a witch, and God a sometimes capricious manipulator (although it's not usually presented that way in Sunday school). Brelich's dry wit amuses at first, but the essay succeeds in subordinating the novel here, and 229 pages is rather long for an essay. Brelich does make some interesting points about God's relationship with humanity, why the three angels handled Abraham and Sodom in the same mission, and why the Abimelech incident is more than just a rehash of the earlier Pharaoh episode. But no matter how apt, his lengthy discourses completely destroy the narrative's scant flow. Ironic humor and occasional insights cannot support the weight of this odd fiction/exegesis hybrid.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1994
ISBN: 1-56897-002-1
Page count: 229pp
Publisher: Northwestern Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 1994