Having escaped Egypt with the other Hebrews during the Exodus, Shira is now living in freedom at the foot of Mt. Sinai, upon which rests the fiery glowing Cloud containing the shekinah glory of God. When the people disobey Yahweh and build a golden idol, the ensuing chaos gives Shira an unexpected opportunity to learn the arts of midwifery. Although her mother wishes for her to continue in the family weaving trade, Shira’s gifts shine brightest when she assists with deliveries. In defiance of her mother, Shira pursues her heart’s calling to become an apprentice midwife.
When a delivery goes horribly wrong, Shira finds herself bound to a man who betrayed her, the caretaker of three young children, and the target of a vengeful woman whose husband was killed by Shira’s people, the Levites. As contention between the Hebrew tribes and the foreigners fans the flames of another dangerous rebellion, Shira will come face-to-face with the heartbreak of her past that she has kept hidden for so long. How can she let go of all that has defined her to accept the love she’s denied herself and embrace who she truly is?
“Too tired to dance anymore?”
The soft voice startled me and I sat up, the sudden movement unbalancing the handcart – and my pulse. Ayal stood in front of me as if conjured by my thoughts, amusement on his face as he gripped the wooden handle to prevent it from toppling forward.
“Thank you . . . No . . . I mean . . . Yes, I am a bit tired,” I stammered.
He lifted a brow. “Is something wrong? You disappeared.”
Frantically, I searched my mind for a way to deflect his curiosity. “Those . . . Those women, do you think they will be back? To harass Kiya?”
He pressed his lips together, studying my face as if he suspected something else plagued my thoughts.
“Perhaps. There are quite a few among us who think Egyptians have no place here.”
“But Kiya is part of the Covenant. And married now to a Hebrew.”
“To some that makes no difference.”
“And you? Does it bother you that my brother loves an Egyptian?”
Ayal cocked his head. “No. Why should it?” He looked toward the shadowed mountains, his expression shuttered. “He is blessed to be able to choose a wife he loves.”
He sighed and met my curious gaze. Silence flooded the empty space between us as the flicker of firelight danced in his eyes. I found myself holding my breath, relieved that the evening shadows would disguise the blaze of my cheeks. The muscles in his bare arms tensed and flexed, as if barely in control. But suddenly weariness, or something like it, seemed to wash over his face and he shifted his weight backward. A loud laugh somewhere behind us seemed to break the spell, and he began to turn away.
Don’t go. Desperation seized me, causing words to tumble out of my mouth. “Thank you . . . again, for rescuing me and Zayna. And for earlier. Stopping Jumo, and bringing those men.”
He shrugged. “I could not let the wedding feast be ruined.”
“I appreciate it. I certainly could not have stopped Jumo.”
“No.” Humor twitched his lips. “Although for such a small person, you are quite strong. You amazed me with Ziba.”
“I told you I was sturdier than I look.”
“Yes.” He crossed his arms over his chest, a smirk on his face. “And you have much courage for one so young. I’ll never forget your expression when you put your hand inside that ewe.”
The comment stung. He thinks I am a child. I am nothing to him.
Suddenly uncomfortable with him looking down at me, I stood and straightened my shoulders. “It is something I must get used to, as a midwife.” When, and if, I gather the nerve to petition my mother. Forcing a bright smile, I dipped my chin in farewell. “Excuse me, I must return to my family. Enjoy the festivities.”
I walked away, shrugging off the disappointment that clung to me and reminded me with every step that I was worth little to a man like Ayal. To any man.
Connilyn Cossette is a wonderful new voice in Biblical fiction. I was impressed with her first release, Counted with the Stars, but Shadow of the Storm has firmly cemented her as a must-read author for me. Not only does she write with beautiful expression, but Shira’s story engaged my heart so thoroughly that I did not want to put it down once I had started; and if that wasn’t enough, it also opened my eyes to a whole new understanding of what life may have been like for those who left Egypt in the Exodus.
The story is told from the point of view of two very different women: Shira, the young Levite woman who is Kiya’s friend in Counted with the Stars; and Dvorah, the daughter of an Egyptian man and his Danite whore, and whose husband is killed by the Levites as part of Yahweh’s punishment for worshipping the golden calf. And I have to say, Connilyn Cossette captured their distinct voices exceptionally well.
Shira is one of the most gentle, nurturing characters I have ever come across, but she also has deep scars; scars that mean marriage and children of her own are unlikely to be in her future. Although her heart thrills to the idea of experiencing the miracle of birth day after day, it conflicts with the grief of her own probable barrenness. Reva is the midwife who recognises Shira’s gift for calming and leading women through childbirth, and the encouragement she offers Shira through the novel is beautiful: “You will grieve… But instead of letting the grief overcome you, allow the miracle to overcome the hurt… You may not have any children of your own body, Shira, but every baby guided to birth by your hands will be a child of your heart.”
Dvorah, by way of contrast, is hard and bitter. And lost; so lost that my heart could not help but go out to her, in spite of her actions. Since her husband’s death, she and her young son have been at the mercy of her husband’s brother – and let’s just say he’s less than honourable! Shira’s constant optimism, cheerfulness, and humming chafe Dvorah; not to mention Shira is a Levite, and will have nothing to do with the goddesses who oversee childbirth. Dvorah’s irritation soon turns to jealousy and hatred when the two women become involved in the care of a motherless baby girl and her brothers.
I loved the way in which the building of the Tabernacle and other events from the Biblical narrative were woven so seamlessly into the background of the story, but aside from being totally captivated by Shira’s story, the thing that stood out most to me was the way in which Connilyn Cossette captured the depth of emotions involved in childbirth and motherhood – whether it be biological motherhood or adoptive motherhood. There are several childbirth scenes in the novel – all of which were handled beautifully – and many scenes in which Shira begins to bond with baby Talia and her twin brothers. I felt the ache, I felt the bond. It made every maternal hormone in my body (and there are a lot of them, I can tell you!) stand to attention.
And now, I can’t finish without saying something about Ayal. Just typing his name has made my nose tingle and my eyes fill with tears. All I will say is this: At one point in the novel I had to put the book down and let the tears flow because my heart was so swollen with the beautiful words he spoke to Shira. Don’t get me wrong; there is pain. But, oh, is there beauty.
This is a truly beautiful story. Not to be missed! In fact, I’ve sent it ‘straight to the pool room‘.
I received a complimentary copy of this novel from the publisher. This has not influenced the content of my review.
Release date: 18 October 2016
Publisher: Bethany House Publishers
Author’s website: http://www.connilyncossette.com/
Read my review for Counted with the Stars.