This final book in the Canaan Trilogy really had me going back to my Bible. I had no recollection of anyone named Lilah. I read the entire Book of Ezra, and she is not mentioned at all. In fact the only women mentioned in Ezra are those who were not considered”daughters of Israel”, and thus cast out of Jerusalem by the pious Ezra.
The action in Lilah occurs many generations after Zipporah, during the Babylonian exile, in the reign of Artaxerxes II. Ezra and his his sister Lilah are descendants of Moses’ brother Aaron. Ezra has devoted his life to studying the laws of Moses under the tutelage of the scholar Baruch ben Neriah. Ezra is determined to live his life studying and strictly following the laws.
Lilah is in love with a Persian warrior, Antinoes, whom she will not marry without Ezra’s blessing. Ezra’s blessing in not forthcoming. With the help of Baruch, Lilah convinces Ezra that it is his destiny to lead the Jewish people to Jerusalem. Through the intersessions of Antinoes and Lilah, Ezra is granted an audience with Artaxerxes, who allows Ezra to lead his people to Jerusalem.
It is a difficult journey, followed by many more difficulties once the exiles reach Jerusalem. In an effort to please God, Ezra orders the expulsion of non-Jewish wives and children from Jerusalem, with predictably disastrous results.
Once again, Marek Halter has done a credible job of describing ancient life in the Middle East. However, this story demands a grander scope than Halter is able to provide. Once again, his characters seem thin and unbelievable. In the right hands, this could be a truly compelling tale.
Published in hardcover-Crown Publishers 2006
Softcover edition-Three Rivers Press 2006