The concept of the beauty pageant is ancient and Rebecca Velez uses the one biblical Esther found herself in to fashion an entertaining behind-the-scenes view. Unlike contestants in the modern world, Esther was an unwilling participant. Her role, however, proved to be instrumental in preserving her Jewish race.
Told from a Christian context, the character of Esther as written in this novel embodies the traits found in Galatians 5:22, “But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” The story begins with Esther risking danger to run an errand for her frail grandmother – “She never would have left the house if sofa had not needed the medicinal herbs.” Her life abruptly changes from anticipating a traditional marriage to adjusting to life in a harem and she uses her strength of character to grow into an excellent choice for queen of ancient Persia.
While many scenes give the reader insight into life in the women’s quarters, Velez also draws interesting portraits of the men as evil plans steal into the sunlight and shadows of the palace compound and weave a black thread through the tapestry of this tale.
As the women in the harem compete with one another for the king’s attention, friendships are formed and enemies are made. Comparisons of physical beauty, attitude and motivation give rise to jealousies and surprising acts of kindness among the girls. Isis, disbelieving that King Xerxes chose Esther over her, “began strutting around the palace sporting a necklace disconcerting like the one the king had given Esther when he announced her as the next queen.” It was surprising to me that even after Esther was crowned as the queen she had to continue to work at staying in the king’s favor. Her father, Mordecai, reminded her of this, “Xerxes’ moods change constantly, Little Star. We both know this. He favors one and then another.”
Yet Esther grew into her power gracefully and used it to benefit others in the harem, as illustrated by her gift of a horse to one who had befriended her during a time of vicious gossip. The relationships among the harem women and Esther rang true to my ears.
The power of the story comes through when Esther faces a difficult choice, a choice of attempting to save her people at the risk of losing her own life. I will let the reader experience the emotions as Esther and her father, Mordecai, work through this decision.
Today’s beauty contests crown a winner for a year. After reading Such A Time As This I realize that possessing physical beauty is merely an opportunity with potential. How a beautiful woman develops that opportunity is the test of her inner beauty. Esther, as imagined by Rebecca Velez, serves as a good model.
The above review was contributed by: Paula Buermele: Paula is the author of The Dream Catcher Tour and has extensive experience in corporate writing, process documentation, and writing training materials.
She is a member of the Upper Peninsula Publishers and Authors Association and the Metro Detroit Creative Writers group.To read more of about Paula and her reviews Click Here
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