|Reviewed By Hilary Hawkes for Readers’ Favorite
Obedience by Vera Burris builds on the Old Testament story of Noah’s Ark. Each chapter begins with a sentence from the biblical story, and the chapters then unfold in the light of those words. Ham doubts his father Noah’s wisdom in building an ark, but he takes refuge on board when the rains begin, along with his brothers and their families. His wife Lita is his love and friend, and he had had to stand up to his father (who believed marriage was a mere arranged union where men are obeyed and women lead a subservient existence) in order to marry her. Livi, Ham’s daughter, seeks a better way and a happier relationship too, but Noah’s patriarchal authority causes nothing but fear, secrets, and rebellion. Will Noah’s vision of a better land and life after the flood really happen or will what he sees as disobedience to his rules and El (God) result in an irreversible family split?
Vera Burris’ Obedience is a thought-provoking and well written biblically based story that ponders the reasons and motivations, the relationships, the hopes and fears of characters caught up in saving themselves from the flood. The story explores the need for and the consequences of patriarchal authority through Noah, and how his belief in his God causes his strict and unyielding treatment of his family. The reader is given insights into how life would have been in Old Testament times – the desire to obey family rules which, though seemingly unreasonable, were there in order to ensure survival and the continuation of the human race. However, we see how, without compassion, choice and individual freedom, people become resentful, frustrated and belittled, and how this then shapes their minds and their lives.
The author depicts vivid and very believable characters and the narrative moves from their many points of view. So the reader has insight into the thoughts and desires of each and the impact they have on one another. I got a real sense of how hard life was for the families and it is easy to identify with Livi and the others’ desire for freedom i.e. a desire for more. Noah’s obedience to El/God results in the ark and the survival of animals and people. But I felt it also showed how unquestioned adherence to one man’s interpretation may cause too narrow a view of their Creator and end in unfair ruling of one type of people over another. An intricate story with a compelling message.