When I was asked to review Leah by Amanda Bedzrah, I did not hesitate. I love books, I love writing, I love most writers. Helping a fellow-writer out is not a chore. When I saw the subtitle, I was even more enthusiastic. Who has not ever felt unnoticed, unwanted or unloved? Then I heard the genre: biblical fiction. Oops. Not exactly in the cup of tea of my unreligious being.
I thought about it some more. I have not always been unreligious. I mean, as a child I wanted to become a nun. I was always reading my book of bible stories in our garden on Aotearoa Terrace in Murray’s Bay (NZ). That was before I decided to step away from the institution church and their God and create my own spiritual life. I deeply believe in intuition and being guided, just not by any church’s God. I loved my bible stories so I decided to give it a go, see where Leah would take me.
First thing I did was find my 50-year-old copy of those bible stories in our house, which now stands in the Netherlands. I am not giving anything away if I say this is what it said on Leah:
“When the ceremony was over and the bride lifted her heavy veil, it wasn’t beautiful Rachel — it was plain Leah.”
Amanda’s book starts at this point. Jacob thought he was marrying Rachel. He had worked seven years for her father Laban and in return his big day had come. But Laban decided to swap sisters. When Jacob finds out, his rejection is immediate. Intriguing.
I wanted to know more about the author so listened to an interview that Wendy H. Jones had with her. In the interview Amanda explains that Leah started out as a burden in her heart. It took about four years to shape the story. She did her research into the culture and traditions of the era. She decided the story was mainly going to bring the message that just because man rejects you, it doesn’t mean that God does.
I naturally hesitated some more at that point, but thought about my own life and how learning to trust my own judgement and growing to appreciate myself, had helped me through countless rejections. Could I read the book in that manner? I tried, and I am delighted to say, I loved it. Why? Because Amanda brings Leah’s world alive through breathing , hurting and joyous people. She puts you right there and then next to Leah, but also gives Laban, Rachel and Jacob their chance to give us their views.
The start of the book is seen through Leah’s eyes as she still wears the veil in the bed she shared with Jacob who also still thinks she is Rachel. You feel her anxiety. I am not going to give anything away but the story that follows gripped me. After taking my time with the first few chapters to get my head around the characters and the setting, I read it in one go. And what a ride!
I love Amanda’s writing. She tells her story in short chapters, varying the point of view. That gives it a well-rounded perspective. She is very specific in her descriptions, which can be quite sad or surprising. From the pages, I could smell the lamb cooked with all those delicious herbs, feel the sun on my face but also sense the knot in my stomach with Jacob’s rejection.
I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say God asks Leah a couple of times to trust him. As a non-believer that first upset me. I was thinking: “No Leah, don’t!” But then I read on and things fell into place, not without effort and I think of times in my life when I heard my inner voice say “Do this” or “Don’t do this”, and the outcome was always best when I listened. That would be the book’s message for me: Trust your inner voice!
You can buy the book from Amazon.