Thursday, February 11, 2016

Book Review: "On This Foundation" by Lynn Austin


On This Foundation
Lynn Austin
Restoration Chronicles #3

Synopsis from Goodreads:
The Powerful Concluding Novel
to The Restoration Chronicles

When news that the wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire, Nehemiah, Jewish cupbearer to King Artaxerxes in Persia, seeks God's guidance. After fasting and prayer, he's given leave to travel to Jerusalem and rebuild the city wall, not anticipating all the dangers that await him on his arrival.

The leaders of the surrounding nations become his fierce enemies, plotting to assassinate him and halt the work. A drought, meanwhile, has left the country impoverished, many families resorting to selling their children as bondservants just to keep from starving.

Capturing the rebuilding of the wall through the eyes of a number of characters, On This Foundation is a powerful exploration of faith in the midst of oppression, and hope that, in spite of appearances, the gracious hand of God is upon those who believe.


Ever since his parents’ murder, Nehemiah has been obsessed with safety—safety for his brothers, safety for his people, and safety for the king he guards.  Now, he has discovered that his brothers and their friends and families are not safe because there are no walls around the city in which they live.  One man was robbed and murdered in the middle of the night because there were no gates to keep the criminals out.  Disturbed, Nehemiah follows God’s leading and providence to rebuild those walls, despite the enemies that threaten him at every turn.

Reading the book of Nehemiah in the Bible, I never really realized how much intrigue was involved!  I mean, I know there were enemies, Sanballat, for instance, who stirred up the people of Jerusalem and plotted to murder Nehemiah, but this retelling puts the story on a much more personal level.  In it, the reader witnesses Nehemiah’s struggle to trust God, build the wall, and outsmart his enemies through the eyes of Nehemiah himself, one of Nehemiah’s enemies, and two women living in the area named Chana and Nava.  

Nehemiah, Chana, and Nava all have the same problem—they refuse to fully trust God because of the death and misfortune that has happened in their lives.  Each struggle against bitterness, anger, and grief in order to fully accept God’s will in their lives, to understand that those trials have a purpose beyond what they can see.  It was inspiring to watch the three of them grow and change throughout the novel. 

I did not think at the beginning of this novel that it would be romantic, but for a moment, because of the existence of female main characters and their interaction with Nehemiah and others, I thought it might.  But, I was correct the first time: it was not a romance novel.  However, both Chana and Nava face impending marriages.  With Chana, it was not exactly a love match, and I was left thinking that, yes, although they did not love each other romantically, they would do well as a couple and grow to love one another quickly.  Perhaps arranged marriages are not all bad, as is commonly perceived?

Again, I thought Nehemiah was intelligent.  With God’s help, he pacified the people when they rebelled and outsmarted his enemies’ evil plots.  He certainly made for a cunning adversary, although his main purpose was to build the wall to keep the people safe and to honor God.  I wonder what kind of man he would have been in reality.  Although we cannot entirely know his history or personality from the Biblical account, what we can know is that Nehemiah was God-fearing, honorable, and courageous.  Next time I read the book of Nehemiah, I will be reminded of this novel, seeing the account in a more personal, realistic light. 

I enjoyed this novel!  It could have drawn me in a little more, but all things considered, it was a thoughtful, provoking, excellent novel I would have no trouble recommending to a friend who enjoys Biblical fiction.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for and honest review.  

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