ESCAPE FROM EGYPT by Sonia Levitin


Age Range: 12 & up
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 In her most ambitious novel since The Return (1987), Levitin follows the events in Exodus through two young people: Jesse of the tribe of Benjamin and Jennat, an Egyptian/Syrian orphan he meets in the house where both are slaves. Caught in a petty theft, Jesse is condemned to the quarries but saved from certain death by Jennat's intervention. Her mistress gives Jennat as a concubine to her cruel husband; after the plagues, Jennat is among many non-Jews who follow Moses. The great leader, however, remains offstage, while significant events such as the bloodbath that followed the worship of the golden calf and the proclamation of the rigorous new laws are dramatized in the experiences of his followers: questioners, idolators, and unbelievers as well as the obedient (and sometimes fanatically) devout. Like Jesse, readers may find God's will hard to fathom: His violent retribution sweeps away bystanders along with sinners, and the righteous seem to suffer gratuitously. But in the end--after Jesse kills a kid that's been mauled by predators (a symbolic antithesis to the actions of the Good Shepherd)--he makes peace with both Jennat (their mutual attraction and bitter strife have figured throughout) and a God whose ``ways are not our ways.'' Jennat, too, accepts the one God who ``asks that you live well and do justice''--though His ways are mysterious, His moral superiority to other gods is clear. In a last chapter, the two recall the past for their children: ``...only those who remember their slavery will appreciate their freedom.'' A deeply felt novel, underlining the philosophical complexity of the story of the Jews' great covenant and their first return to their homeland. (Fiction. 12+)

Pub Date: April 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0-316-52273-2
Page count: 268pp
Publisher: Little, Brown
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 1994


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