Friday, November 21, 2008
ABINADI, by H.B. Moore
by Stephanie Black
I was introduced to H.B. (Heather) Moore’s work last year when I read Land of Inheritance, the last volume in her Out of Jerusalem series. I was impressed with Moore’s skill and talent (and Land of Inheritance went on to win a Whitney Award for Best Historical Novel of 2007). When I heard about her new book, Abinadi, the first in a new series, I knew it would be good. I was interested to hear that, in contrast to our usual view of Abinadi as an elderly man—a concept not based on any scriptural passage, but simply on the painting done by Arnold Friberg—Moore portrayed him as a young man with a wife and child. Making him a young father was a stroke of brilliance on Moore’s part; Abinadi’s sacrificing his life for his beliefs becomes that much more poignant when the reader has become acquainted with the young family he leaves behind when he obeys the call to teach the people of King Noah. In fact, I feared the book might be too painful for me because of Abinadi’s martyrdom (I’m a happy-ending person)—but that didn’t turn out to be the case. The novel is not depressing. It’s a powerful story of faith and hope. Moore is highly skilled both at the technical aspects of writing fiction and at creating interesting and exciting stories. Abinadi is a thoroughly engaging novel.
Moore introduces us to the fictional character of Raquel, daughter of the high priest, Amulon. Though raised in privilege, Raquel is not impressed by wealth or status. What does impress her is quiet, humble Abinadi, a man of no significant social standing. When King Noah focuses his greedy and lustful desires on Raquel, and her father does nothing to protect her, Raquel flees and joins a community of believers—including Abinadi—who still hold to the eternal truths that have been pushed aside under the rule of King Noah.
Moore does an excellent job of portraying the wickedness and debauchery of King Noah’s court, while never resorting to vulgar or suggestive writing to do so. Noah’s wickedness comes vividly to life, along with the desperate need for the people to hear the message Abinadi bears. The king’s newest high priest, Alma, is torn with doubts about his life at court, but allows himself to be sucked into the evil surrounding Noah. Heather Moore is adept at characterization, and does an excellent job with Alma, giving him a background and personality that make his plunge into sin, his soul-searching, and his eventual courage in the cause of truth all part of a credible character arc.
Abinadi is also well-drawn—likeable, hardworking, brave, in love with Raquel but fearing he’s beneath her notice. It’s easy to erroneously picture prophets as being different than the rest of us—somehow above all human fears and struggles—and I appreciate how in her portrayal of Abinadi, Moore shows us his humanness. Abinadi doesn’t want to die a martyr. After he marries Raquel and their son is born, there’s nothing he’d like more than to continue on with that quiet life forever, but when the Lord calls, Abinadi has the faith to respond, no matter what the cost.
I enjoyed the character of Raquel. She’s strong, determined, sometimes too stubborn, and at heart, she’s as courageous as her husband. The pacing of the novel was excellent. The story never drags. The ending is satisfying, as Alma is shown carrying on the work Abinadi began. Abinadi is an excellent novel, and I highly recommend it.
Posted by Stephanie Black at 5:00 PM