I’m told that this book is really popular, especially among homeschool families… and especially among Christian families. This is another one of those where I raise a distinct finger in the air to ask why.
It’s a historical fiction surrounding the character of Nehemiah, the Old Testament man who went back to Jerusalem (from exile) to rebuild the walls of the city. The story is told from the eyes of Bani, Nehemiah’s orphaned nephew. And, well, it’s hard to even know where to start on how bad the book is.
I guess we might as well start at the beginning: the title. There is no place in the book where victory is had on any walls. Anywhere. The closest incident would be a skirmish outside of the walls, near the walls I suppose, but it had nothing to do with the walls (i.e., there weren’t people standing on the walls shooting down people outside; the battle was fought completely out in the field). The closest preposition to the truth would be “victory near the walls.”
Well, you say, but prepositions aren’t the most important thing in the world. I agree. If there hadn’t been so many other grievous errors, I probably wouldn’t have even noticed. (Although someone I know would definitely dwell on this point. “Prepositions are important,” he would say, “because you have to make up before you can make out.” But I digress.)
The character of Nehemiah. Oh my. He is described as “arrogant, used to special attentions, and fearless.” But mostly arrogant. Oh, and he beats his nephew severely. Point 1, this is not at all the Nehemiah of the Bible. He is humble, grieved over the state of Jerusalem, and barely has the guts to ask the king to leave for Jerusalem. It would be like deciding to write a story on George Washington in which he’s suddenly a coward and a liar.
Point 2, since when are any of the people God chooses to lead Israel arrogant and obnoxious? I mean, let’s be serious: Moses (“most humble man alive”), Joshua, David, the prophets… Not only does the character of Nehemiah in this story not fit with Scripture’s details of him, it doesn’t even fit with the type of leaders God picks!
Then, worst of all. *sigh* The messages. Nehemiah tells his nephew to “do what his heart feels is right” (Disney, anyone?). Then, he tells the people that it is because of the righteousness and merits of their fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, that the nation of Israel was chosen by God and continues to be cared for by Him. He says that their power is not in the sword; oh no, it is in the purity of their faith. And that if they break their covenant with God, they cease to be Israel.
Really? Because I’m pretty sure that if you actually read the Old Testament, you’ll find out that Abraham was a liar and an adulterer, Isaac lied just like his father, and Jacob deceived people for the entire first half of his life and then did such a bad job at parenting (playing favorites, etc.) that ten of his sons wanted to kill another one. Nobody’s merits ever had anything to do with God choosing them.
You’ll find that it was because of the ‘purity’ of Israel’s faith that they were actually in exile in the first place—because they didn’t have any purity of faith. And oh by the way, at this point in time they’ve already broken that covenant time after time and somehow still aren’t wiped out (so, they’re still Israel).
(These are just a very few of the problems; there are many more.)
So I’m not really sure where the author got any of those ideas. It certainly wasn’t Scripture. And if you’re going to throw completely anti-biblical ideas into a story, why are you trying to write a biblical historical fiction anyway? The only circumstance under which I would recommend people read this book is if they’re looking for a way to show how badly historical fiction can be done. Seriously. It’s that bad.
I guess you could say this is an anti-recommendation. Don’t read it. Or at least read it extremely critically if you must read it.