Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Heavens Before by Kacy Barnett-Gramckow

The Heavens Before cover

The Heavens Before
by Kacy Barnett-Gramckow

Trade Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Moody Publishers
First Released: 2004

Source: My personal library.

Back Cover Description (slightly modified):
Chaos will erupt as the fountains of the earth open. Only eight humans will emerge alive...

Annah has not spoken a word in the years since she witnessed her father's brutal murder at the hands of her brother. The only reason her brother left her alive was because he thought her grief had driven her into mindlessness. Now a young woman, she is desperate to escape the cutthroat society that considers her mad. Then she has an unexpected encounter with a young man who is different from the rest. His name is Shem, son of Noakh.

The Heavens Before retells the enthralling biblical account of the Great Flood--as seen through the eyes of a courageous woman. Brought face to face with an ancient evil, Annah dares to believe in the Most High, the God who is nothing more than foolish legend to the people of her settlement. In a world of astonishing beauty and appalling violence, a world unknowingly speeding toward disaster, Annah's choice will have unforeseen consequences.

The Heavens Before is one of my favorite novels. It's a historical romance. One of the things I appreciate is that the story stayed true to the information given in the Bible. The author also clearly did her research as to what the pre-Flood society might be like, how the ark could hold all the animals, how they could feed all the animals, etc., to fill in what isn't told in the Bible account. All of this information was woven in as a backdrop for Annah's story.

I was quickly immersed into the world and the story (even now that I've read it several times). The world-building was excellent and brought the story alive in my imagination. The pacing was excellent, and the author built the tension nicely to keep me reading. The characters were complex and realistic. I cared about them, even the ones that weren't very nice to Annah.

Since the Flood happened before Christ's birth or before Jacob/Israel was born, only God ("the Most High") was referred to except for a brief mention of "the Promised One." Noah's family is shown as devout (with mention to them praying, thanking God, etc.), but it's presented as an underlying part of their daily life. As in, it wasn't preachy. I think readers who have a Jewish or Christian heritage would enjoy the novel.

There was no explicit sex. There was no bad language. Overall, I'd highly recommend this well-written, clean novel.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt from Chapter One
Annah sighed and settled herself into a crook of the feathery branches of the ancient Tree of Havah. A morning mist shrouded the fields about her, and the cool rose-pink air made her shiver, but these minor discomforts were worth the temporary sensations of freedom and peace. Her family and the other inhabitants of the settlement still slept, exhausted after their usual night of feasting, visiting, dancing, and quarreling. Annah did not join in these festivities; she had nothing to celebrate.

I do not belong with the others, she thought.

To soothe herself, she pulled a carved wooden shuttle from her woven-grass bag, slung on a branch nearby, and began to work on the torn edges of her veil. Patiently she handled the light threads, knotting pale strands she had beaten from the stalks of soaked, crushed wildflowers. Over countless mornings, the knotted threads had become an intricate gossamer scarf, then a shawl, a head covering, and finally an all-encompassing veil.

Aware of the shifting daylight and of her cramped, aching limbs, Annah gazed upward through the branches. The sun would be directly overhead soon. The sky was no longer the deep crimson of dawn, but a clear and bright pink, with a warm and welcoming sun.

Yerakh, her oldest brother, would wake soon. Annah shuddered, picturing his darkly bearded face, thinking, Let Yerakh be happy today.

She tied off one last knot, then tucked the small wooden shuttle into her bag. Shouldering her bag and veil, and smoothing her straight black hair, Annah clambered down from the tree.

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