Thursday, June 18, 2015

G621 Book Review of Isaac and Ishmael by Mary F Burns

Name of Book: Isaac and Ishmael

Author: Mary F Burns

ISBN: 9781937818234

Publisher: Perfect Bound

Type of book: Biblical, siblings, rivalry, relationships, help, patriarchs, doubt, faith, matriarchs, ancient times (-1700s PME?) generations, Middle East, Egypt, travel, promises

Year it was published: 2014


Isaac and Ishmael attempts to bring to human scale the legends and mythic dimensions of Abraham and Sarah, their sons Isaac and Ishmael, and Isaac and Rebecca’s twin sons Esau and Jacob. Readers will experience the struggles, competition, betrayals and loves of these brothers, fathers and sons caught up in the overarching tension between time and eternity, a place where a new God is coming into being—Yahweh, the uncanny, irascible, mischievous, bargaining God who participated in the life of a new people and compelled them to a new way of being human.

The stormy relationship of Isaac and Ishmael has long passed into a tradition which looks to Isaac as the father of the Jewish people, and Ishmael as the father of the Arab people, particularly in Egypt. Similarly, while Jacob carries on his father’s heritage, becoming the father of the Twelve Tribes of Israel, his twin brother Esau, the red-haired archer who sold his birthright for a bowl of lentil soup, is traditionally said to have departed for the North, and populated what would later become Rome. Isaac and Ishmael explores the thorny, complex yet delicate relations between these brothers and fathers, providing a more human understanding of the differences that arise between individuals and peoples, even now as the ancient tensions in the Middle East continue to flare up in modern confrontations and war. Ever present in the story are the strong, subtle and often ambitious women of Biblical legend: Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah.


The characters are definitely memorable and unforgettable, and its not because they are biblical. Abraham is a strong man who also happens to be obedient and listens to Yahweh. Sarah is a strong woman but at the same time she seems to mourn her lack of ability to have children and is harsh to Ishmael due to his mother. Ishmael seems to be cunning and interested in how the family is without him and has no qualms about releasing information that Isaac might have a right not to know. Isaac is curious, a trusting young man who seems to not see bad things in others and is extremely loyal and devoted; Rebecca is a kind and a clever young woman who is determined to succeed however she can; Esau cares more for wars than learning and enjoys doing the same things as Ishmael while Jacob is clever, sneaky and cunning and also is talented in many areas. Rachel and Leah are close sisters and in this story they get along very well together.


There is always a human element to the stories, beginnings equal struggles


The story is written in third person narrative from what seems to be everyone's point of view; that of Abraham, Isaac, Ishmael, Esau, Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah. It definitely has an unusual writing style because quotation marks aren't used in the story, but instead its a mixture of some sort of music or harmony with no unplanned stops or hiccups. I also like how Isaac found those things out about his past. I also compared it a little to Angels at the Gates written by T.K Thorne and reviewed earlier this year. The book gave me very clear appreciation of the biblical stories as well as helped me discover the purpose of Rachel in the story. I do hope the author will continue to write about Jacob and his family as well as about Joseph and up to Moses and I also hope that she will stick to Hebrew Testament and will not go into the christian testament in the future stories.

Author Information:
(From HFVBT)

Isaac & Ishmael Available at

About the Author03_Mary F. Burns

Mary F. Burns is the author of ISAAC AND ISHMAEL, published by Sand Hill Review Press in November 2014. Other historical fiction includes THE SPOILS OF AVALON and PORTRAITS OF AN ARTIST (Sand Hill Review Press, February 2014, 2013), both books featuring the celebrated portrait painter, John Singer Sargent and his best friend, writer Violet Paget (aka Vernon Lee). Mary is a member of and book reviewer for the Historical Novel Society and a former member of the HNS Conference board of directors. Her debut historical novel J-THE WOMAN WHO WROTE THE BIBLE was published in July 2010 by O-Books (John Hunt Publishers, UK). She has also written two cozy-village mysteries in a series titled The West Portal Mysteries (The Lucky Dog Lottery and The Tarot Card Murders). She will be part of two panels at the upcoming North American Historical Novel Society Conference in June in Denver, one on The Historical Mystery and the other on Art and Artists in Historical Fiction.
Ms. Burns was born in Chicago, Illinois and attended Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, where she earned both Bachelors and Masters degrees in English, along with a high school teaching certificate. She relocated to San Francisco in 1976 where she now lives with her husband Stuart in the West Portal neighborhood.
Ms. Burns may be contacted by email at For more information please visit Mary Burns’s website at You can also connect with Mary on FacebookTwitter, and Goodreads, or read her blog posts at:


From the moment I agreed to do a book tour for Isaac and Ishmael by Mary F Burns, I had a very strong feeling that somehow this will be a special book. And I was not wrong. Let's be honest in saying that the bible is written dryly and while interesting, it barely gives explanations or draws out personalities of the patriarchs and matriarchs. In other words, lack of human element and its heavily implied that the reader should be very familiar with the characters and their views as well as personalities. This story, however, delves into the human psyche and gives life to my favorite stories in Genesis, that of Isaac and Jacob and their respective siblings and families. What I also really appreciated is that the author stuck directly to Hebrew Testament with no hints to the christian testament, thus I didn't feel as if religion was being shoved down my throat. If you are looking to see how the biblical beginning stories should actually work and how they should look, then pick up this book and prepare to be transformed into the desert of long ago and far away.

This is for Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

Isaac and Ishmael Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, June 8
Excerpt at What Is That Book About
Spotlight & Giveaway at Passages to the Past
Tuesday, June 9
Review at Svetlana’s Reads and Views
Wednesday, June 10
Spotlight at Let Them Read Books
Thursday, June 11
Review at A Book Drunkard
Friday, June 12
Spotlight & Giveaway at Unshelfish
Monday, June 15
Spotlight at CelticLady’s Reviews
Tuesday, June 16
Review at Book Nerd
Wednesday, June 17
Review & Excerpt at Book Lovers Paradise
Thursday, June 18
Excerpt at The Never-Ending Book
Friday, June 19
Guest Post at Just One More Chapter
Sunday, June 21
Review & Guest Post at Jorie Loves a Story
Monday, June 22
Excerpt at 100 Pages a Day
Tuesday, June 23
Spotlight at Broken Teepee
Thursday, June 25
Spotlight & Giveaway at Historical Fiction Connection
Friday, June 26
Review & Giveaway at Genre Queen

4 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)

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