by Randall Ingermanson
It’s the year A.D. 57 and Jerusalem teeters on the brink of revolt against Rome. James, leader of the Jewish Christian community, has an enemy in high places. And two very strange friends . . .
Rivka Meyers is a Messianic Jewish archaeologist from California, trapped in first-century Jerusalem by a physics experiment gone horribly wrong.
Ari Kazan is her husband, an Israeli physicist slowly coming to grips with his Jewish heritage--and with a man named Jesus he was raised to hate.
With no way back to their own century, Rivka and Ari seek their niche in this doomed city of God. Ari applies his knowledge of physics to become an engineer, a man of honor. Rivka feels increasingly isolated in a patriarchal culture that treats women like children. She knows what’s coming--siege, famine, fire. At first, her warnings earn her grudging respect as a “seer woman.” But when one of her predictions misses, the city scorns her as a false prophet.
Rivka knows that an illegal trial and execution awaits James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus. Can she prevent this disaster? Will James believe her “premonition”? Or is Ari right that Rivka’s meddling in history will only make matters worse?
Volume 1 of City of God
Zondervan (September 2003). Trade paperback. 352 pages.
Author Web Site(s): http://www.ingermanson.com/
Author Interview: See the August 13, 2003 Edenstar interview with Randall Ingermanson.
Check out reviews at Amazon.com of Premonition.
See the review at ChristianFictionReview.com.
Ever since I read Randall Ingermanson's first novel, "Transgression" (now out of print - temporarily, I hope), I've been looking forward to this sequel. It was worth the wait. By the way, it would be helpful to read "Transgression", but it's not essential; this story stands on its own.
Is it a blessing or a curse to know the future? Can the past be changed by knowledge from the future, or does this knowledge only lead to the past happening as remembered? And what happens when the information isn't accurate or complete? Find out in "Premonition"!
The story picks up with not-so-newlyweds Ari and Rivka trapped in first-century Jersualem. They've managed to find a place to live, sharing a house with their friends, Baruch and Hana. They subsist on the generosity of others, since Ari the foreigner of unknown background is unemployable. But he soon finds a way to become useful thanks to his knowledge of physics. The plot thickens (I've always wanted to write that) when he quickly runs afoul of the Wrong Person.
Meanwhile, Rivka manages to become an apprentice midwife to a tough, but appealing woman named Marta. But she has to prove herself first, and does so without intending to. Her vindication comes in an unexpected way.
Since Rivka comes from the twentieth century, it should be easy for her to head off disasters and benefit the residents of her new home Her near-eidetic memory should help her "recall" events before they happen. But there's a problem: not all her sources are accurate. Josephus (a young man here) wrote of this era, but his reports are sometimes biased. This leads to flawed results that Rivka can't anticipate. She loses a lot of standing in the community when one of her prophecies comes true - but subtly, not dramatically. As far as the people are concerned, she blew the opportunity. And they have long memories.
"Premonition" is strongly character driven. The plot is good, of course, but the personalities, interactions, and growth of the principal characters are what give the book its power. Baruch and Hana are the most prominent, but many others are living, breathing individuals as well. The spiritual struggles are convincing as a Messianic Jew (Rivka) tries to teach her formerly atheistic Jewish husband about Yeshua.
I liked Ingermanson's depiction of Yaakov ben Joseph (James, the son of Joseph and brother of Jesus). While he isn't a central character, he dominates his every scene. He's different from my image of the author of the New Testament epistle. Ingermanson pulls this off by having him radiate joy and love. When I mentally graft this James onto the persona of the author of the epistle, I see someone who's enthusiastically encouraging, not sternly admonishing. Inevitably, the last few chapters build to a conclusion that's emotionally gripping. Knowing what happens to this beloved church leader makes finishing hard, but seeing James living his faith only increases his stature.
Queen Berenike and her brother Agrippa are completely opposite to this. Ingermanson handles the seamier side of their relationship tactfully, but without blunting their foulness and corruption. The two of them radiate pure evil. Hanan ben Hanan isn't much better. The difference is that he believes that he's doing God's work (more or less), while Berenike and Agrippa seem to wallow in their own wickedness.
Because of a tragic event in the "Transgression", Baruch and Hana experience a terrible strain in their marriage. He must deal with one of the most difficult issues that a husband and father can endure. He must do this because of his social environment and in spite of where God is leading him. And she, as a first-century Jerusalem wife, must suffer because of his suffering. The last page of the novel is one of the most powerful depictions I've read of personal growth in a very long time. It's impossible to read this without being profoundly moved. (Any more would be a spoiler).
Ingermanson deserves compliments on his research. His "truncated" bibliography lists 22 sources. He successfully brings a lot of historical characters into the story, and does so better than most who attempt this. Because of the depth of his locating information, there's a reality to this story that gives it a strong "you are there" feeling. He knows how to depict an ancient society in a way that makes it look as if he had been there. He's good. I highly recommend "Premonition".
Reviewed September 28, 2003 for Edenstar by Bill Bader.
Product Code: 1224