Abigail. Though little is known about this widow of Nabal who wed the anointed but not yet crowned warrior so soon after her husband’s death, she has captured the imagination of many readers of the Old Testament. Readers are introduced to Jill Eileen Smith’s fictional re-imagining of Abigal as a young girl, newly a woman and betrothed to the unpredictable Nabal. Her youthful hopes soon dissolve into agitated resignation as she discovers the man she has wed is both unpredictable and abusive.
Abigail’s journey follows David through his times of wilderness wanderings to his eventual rule over Judah. And through the taking of many new wives, Michal’s return to his side, and on to his acceptance as King by all the peoples of Israel. Her story comes to a close before Bathsheba comes upon the scene – Smith’s exploration of David’s partner in adultery will be the final installment in the trilogy and is slated for release in 2011.
The second installment in The Wives of King David trilogy, Smith has chosen to pass over David’s second wife – the even less frequently mentioned Ahinoam – in favor of the woman who clearly possessed a great deal of personal fortitude to move in direct opposition to the wishes of a foolish husband. Told in a tighter time frame, Abigail benefits from richer character development and a fuller ability to understand this woman, than did the series debut Michal which covered a larger span, leaping past decades at a time.
Through Abigail, Smith is able to more deeply explore the struggles women in polygamous marriages may face on a daily basis. Though the third of David’s wives, Abigail was present for the addition of each of his other spouses while Michal was absent for the majority of those marriages. Smith eloquently captures the unquenchable longing of a woman for her husband, resulting in a deeply sympathetic characterization.
Smith’s writing jumps from formal phrasing more in line with historical fiction to surprisingly modern turns of phrase, an irritating inconsistency. Generally true to the biblical narrative, Smith fills in the blanks believably but stretches it once towards the end in a way that I felt was unjustified.
The multi-layered tapestry that Smith is weaving with this series is coming into clearer focus. Characters only briefly mentioned in Michal are seen with additional depth through Abigail’s eyes. When the two novels are read in conjunction with one another multiple points of view on certain events are available for reflection.
Each story in The Wives of King David stands alone, and yet each is linked to the other. It will be great fun to read through the series again once it’s complete – applying the character insights and events of the later novels to those read earlier.