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Book Review: Michal (The Wives of King David #1) by Jill Eileen Smith

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As a woman it is very difficult to read the Bible’s accounts of King David’s life and not be left somewhat agape at his marriage to King Saul’s daughter Michal. Though little is written of their love, the bare bones descriptions revealed in scripture clearly depict a bittersweet marriage beset by difficulties both within and without.

Taken from her husband and given to another; removed from that home and returned to David who had since wed a variety of other women; plagued by infertility – Michal’s life was clearly not one of emotional ease. The first title in Jill Eileen Smith’s series The Wives of King David explores the life of Michal, her spiritual journey, and the prominent influence of David on her life.

Smith’s work of biblical fiction is firmly grounded in the scriptural account, weaving the emotional drama of Michal’s life together with the pivotal historical events that occurred during her lifetime. I have never read a book that has dealt with Michal’s life in such an authentic, and caring manner. From Smith’s descriptions of life as the daughter of a deranged and wildly unpredictable king, to her grief at the deaths of her nephews, we are taken as readers into the previously unexplored emotional vistas of this princess of Israel.

While greatly enjoying this fresh look into the life of David’s first wife, I wasn’t overly fond of Smith’s David, preferring the passion of the king found in Eleanor Gustafson’s The Stones. Large jumps in time (three years, five-years, six-years, and so on) succeed in facilitating the progression of the timeline, but make the development of Michal’s bitterness – as evidenced in her response to David’s joyful procession before the ark – somewhat choppy. Likewise, her first years in the home of Patiel (the cuckold) are entirely missing, robbing readers of Michal’s struggle to adapt and come to care for this new man.

I firmly believe that Christian authors can depict passionate romances without resorting to excessive sensuality. Unfortunately Smith has certainly met the latter goal while falling somewhat short of the former in her depiction of this well-known marriage. Still, Smith’s work was pleasant, and even thought provoking, providing a woman’s reflections upon the inner life of this first wife of King David. After all, who among us hasn’t wondered how we would have reacted in Michal’s place to David’s sizeable collection of wives?

Clearly, I feel that Michal could have been a stronger novel, but still, I’m looking forward to reading Abigail, Smith’s recently released story of David’s second wife. Smith’s writing is solid, just not spectacular, so I’m looking forward to gleaning more of her imaginings of the lives of the women who shared parts of the heart of the man whose heart was likened to that of God Himself.

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