Grimes contrasts the Biblical story of Abraham’s son Ishmael with present day Samuel’s trying to cope with divorce and his father’s remarriage.
Conveyed almost entirely in prose poems, the work gives deeper meaning to both stories. A few quotes from Hammurabi’s Code, which preface some sections, provide needed context. Both sons focus first on their mothers. Ishmael’s mother is a slave, and the jealousy of Abraham’s wife makes their life difficult. The arrival of Isaac, the natural son in ancient times and of David, a biracial child in the present, gives a clear picture of the universality over time of sons wanting to be first in their father’s lives regardless of circumstances, as well as the charm of new babies. Grimes allows Samuel to find some peace, ably assisted by both of the women in his family, but Ishmael and his mother head into the desert, leaving Abraham behind completely. Three major religions derive from Abraham’s seed, giving this impact for many people of faith.
The strength of the poetry along with this assumption that religion and a relationship with God are an integral part of life distinguishes and illuminates the narrative.(Fiction. YA)