For Such a Time by Kate Breslin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Ok. This was interesting. I honestly don’t even know what to rate this book, because it just wasn’t what I expected. So a little background – I’ve read two other books by Kate Breslin, and though I enjoyed one more than the other, they were both nice reads, not too different from your usual Christian historical fiction books.
This was different.
I knew this book was based on the story of Esther, and I was very interested in how Breslin would handle all of the elements of the story. And I have to say, she did very well – the story wasn’t exactly the same (I feel like the timeline was a little different, and spoiler alert, the Haman character’s death wasn’t quite as satisfying as getting hung on his own gallows. It was close, though. Also, he didn’t get to lead Mordecai through town on a royal horse proclaiming that’s how the king honors someone after thinking it was going to happen to him. I feel like that plot kind of disappeared?) It was also a little bit odd that the King Ahasuerus character was the “hero.” Admittedly, Aric was not like the king, at least because he didn’t steal all of the young girls from his country and try them out. He did kind of steal Stella/Hadassah, but it was more of a rescue. Anyway, rambling aside, it was really interesting seeing how Breslin wrote the book based on Esther, and she managed to do so without it being nastily inappropriate.
So, the characters. I don’t know. Stella/Hadassah wasn’t presented as this perfect person – far from it. (Which is entirely plausible based on Esther’s story.) Aric was weird for me. It was interesting to see how he’d bought into the Nazi ideology and justified all of the bad things he did on the account of “it’s just war.” But his relationship with Stella was super strange. I have never read another book where the characters kissed so many times. They kissed so much it became ridiculous. Aric would be mad at her, yell at her, then they’d kiss, and she’d fall more in love with him. A lot of the falling in love was based on physical stuff – maybe that’s tying back into Esther but keeping it clean? I don’t know. I just can’t get over how many times they kissed.
I also need to mention the writing, because it fit the book very well. It was very descriptive and raw – exactly what this book needed. The plot was not surprising, of course, since it was based on Esther, but I liked how Breslin put the verses in Esther that referred to what was going to happen at the beginnings of the chapters. However, the ending … it was so intense, and I loved the action, but the last few pages were just ridiculous. Unnecessary, in my opinion. We all knew what was going to happen, and four pages of drama was not worth that.
And then there’s this glaring part of the story. I’m not sold either Stella or Aric ever became believers. There was one point when Stella read a verse in John (I think) about Jesus dying for others, and then she decided to die alongside her people. Ok, noble thought, but I don’t count that as her being saved. And there’s really nothing that would give any indication she was a believer – in fact, the ending casts major doubt on that. And Aric …. I don’t know. Was he supposed to be a Christian all along? Now that’s a major issue, too, because dude was in charge of a concentration camp. He just kind of … trusted God eventually, or something? It was extremely vague, and what was more clear was that Stella rescued him, she saw the “good” in him (um, no, because “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one…” Romans 3:10), and all of this weird stuff. Basically, it was another case of your love interest “saving” you or something equally ridiculous. I’m so tired of books that do this. Only Jesus saves, end of story. Even the best of people cannot save a person. Jesus Christ alone saves – “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12).
So, in the end, this was an odd book – way more intense than I’d anticipated, and although it had so much potential, it fell short.