A debut written in the voice of Esther, the Jewish heroine who became Queen of Persia and saved her people from destruction by the villainous Lord Haman.
Esther (considered by rabbinic tradition as one of the four most beautiful women in history) was born to a family of devout Jews, in Babylon, in the fifth century b.c., betrothed early on to her cousin Mordecai, and orphaned at the age of ten. After her parents’ death, she was sent to live with Mordecai, a high treasury official serving King Xerxes, in the Persian city of Susa. Mordecai once saved Xerxes’ life and enjoys royal favor as a result; nevertheless, he feels obliged to conceal his Judaism and instructs Esther to do the same. When Xerxes’ wife, Queen Vashti, defies the king in public, she is banished, and royal agents scour the country to find a maiden to replace her. Esther is abducted, imprisoned in the royal harem, and eventually chosen by Xerxes as his new queen. In the meantime, Xerxes’ wicked prime minister, Haman, plots to overcome Mordecai (his rival for the king’s favor) by inciting the king to issue a decree ordering the execution of all Jews—beginning with Mordecai. Esther, telling the king that she too is a Jew, protects her people by exposing the treason behind Haman’s plots. Eventually, Haman is hanged from the very gallows that had been built for Mordecai, and Esther lives happily ever after as the most honored woman in the realm. Kohn keeps her narrative closely in line with the biblical account but fleshes out the story, offering a deliberately provocative sketch of the daily life of women in the ancient world.
A nice retelling that adds a great deal by way of color and perspective—even if not much depth—to a famous and greatly beloved tale.