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Return to Me (The Restoration Chronicles) (Volume 1) Paperback – October 1, 2013
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From Publishers Weekly
Christy Award Hall of Fame member Austin (Chronicles of the Kings series) resumes her fictional tour through biblical history with book one of the Restoration Chronicles, which follows the sojourn of the exiled Israelites in Babylon and their return to Jerusalem. Elderly Iddo can't understand the spiritual complacency of his sons, who would rather stay in Babylon than heed God's call. But his grandson Zechariah proves to be a devout, apt student of the Torah, helping to rebuild the Temple when they arrive in Judea and growing into his priestly destiny. But spiritual lethargy isn't a problem just for those who stayed behind. The long fight to reestablish a foothold in Judea grows wearisome for many who have returned. Pagan neighbors oppose the Israelites economically and entice them spiritually. Iddo, Zechariah, and several family members experience personal crises as they try to answer the main question of the story: what does God truly want from his people—obedience or faith? Secondary characters, mostly women, provide strong subplots, and Austin shines a bright light on ancient Jewish life and lands. Biblical fiction fans will cheer her latest offering, which bolsters this challenging genre. (Oct.)
From the Back Cover
From the Acclaimed Author of Chronicles of the Kings
After decades of exile, the prophesies are coming true--King Cyrus has declared the Jews may return to Jerusalem. Iddo, a priest, is sure this is a sign of God's renewed favor. For too long they've remained in Babylon, and many, including Iddo's sons, are losing the faith that sets them apart. And so only a few choose to leave everything to return--return to their home and their God.
Nothing about their journey to the Promised Land is easy. As hardships mount, even the faithful, like Iddo's beloved wife, Dinah, question the sacrifice of following God's leading. Zechariah, Iddo's oldest grandson, feels torn between his grandfather's ancient beliefs and the family they left behind. But one life-changing encounter with the Holy One gives him insight that will change Zechariah--and history--forever.
Bringing the Old Testament to vibrant life, Return to Me tells the compelling story of two men living by faith in the midst of doubt, the women who love them, and the faithful remnant struggling to rebuild their lives in obedience to the God who beckons them home.
"Austin shines a bright light on ancient Jewish life and lands. Biblical fiction fans will cheer her latest offering, which bolsters this challenging genre." --Publishers Weekly
"Biblical fiction enthusiasts can rejoice at the new series from Austin... Lively characters enmeshed in Jewish tradition provide an Old Testament drama that is sure to garner readership." --RT Book Reviews
"Eight-time Christy Award-winning author Austin launches a powerful new historical series that brings the Old Testament books of Ezra and Nehemiah to life. This work is sure to attract fans of Francine Rivers's biblical series." --Library Journal
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However, many have grown comfortable with their life in Babylon. Iddo and the elders try to persuade as many as they can to make the journey, which ends up being 42,000. Even Iddo’s own sons don’t want to leave. His grandson Zechariah is torn between following the Torah and obeying his parents, until he has a supernatural experience at his Bar Mitzvah that persuades his choice to go to Jerusalem.
However, the Samaritans living outside of the rubble of Jerusalem are hostile toward their new neighbors and plot ways to get the Jews to leave the land. Through many years, politics, and trusting God, they work to rebuild the temple and the hope of the Jewish nation.
This book is a reminder of how comfortable that we can get in our own lives and not want to follow God’s calling. Even after hearing the stories of Jerusalem from previous generations, several of the people didn’t want to leave the life they had in Babylon. I think this corresponds easily to today’s world as well. People get so comfortable that they don’t want to change. But sometimes change is just what we need.
Lynn Austin does a great job bringing the Old Testament books of Nehemiah, Haggai, and Zechariah to life in her book. So good in fact, that I had to go back and read those books again to actually see how much they overlapped. She did her research very well.
I enjoyed all of the characters. You have to follow four different story lines that are all intertwined together. I felt that there were some areas of the book that could have been trimmed down a bit to give it a little less volume. Even so, about halfway through the book, it really took off and was hard to put down. I look forward to the sequel.
I will be honest though, the first portion of the story was a much slower paced read for me. Interesting but not gripping. However, you know things are going to get better and sure enough you hit a point where you just can't put the book down. The characters come to life and you can relate with their struggles. You desire to see these people return to God and to put Him first, and you become frustrated with those who lack the faith and strength to do so. All the while seeing that no one is perfect and yet, God still loves us all. With God it is so much more than following rules, it is about our heart! Do we find strength in following rules, do we turn from truth or do we love and depend on God?
I believe that Austin gave us a very good depiction of the time, cultures, situations and characters with their struggles. She portrayed life with all the good and the bad and brought forth the truth of Scripture in these circumstances. In the end I have to say, brilliantly done! I am looking forward to Book 2!
4 1/2 Stars