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Sunday, November 6, 2016

Shadow of the Storm

When she is not homeschooling her two sweet kids (with a full pot of coffee at hand), Connilyn Cossette is scribbling notes on spare paper, mumbling about her imaginary friends, and reading obscure, out-of-print history books.  There is nothing she likes better than digging into the rich, ancient world of the Bible and uncovering buried gems of grace that point toward Jesus.  Although a Pacific Northwest native, she now lives near Dallas, TX.
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  • Series: Out From Egypt (Book 2)
  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Bethany House Publishers (October 18, 2016)
  • ISBN-10: 0764218212
  • ISBN-13: 978-0764218217

In the darkness of the storm's shadow, only truth can light her way.

Having excaped Egypt with the other Hebrews during the Exodus, Shira is now living in freedom at the foot of Mount Sinai.  When the people rebel by worshipping a golden idol, the ensuing chaos gives Shira an unexpected opportunity to assist a midwife.  When the experience awakens a new desire in her, she defies her mother's wish for her to continue in rhe weaving trade and pursues her heart's calling as an apprentice midwife.  

But when a delivery goes horribly wrong, Shira finds herself in an impossible situation and bound to a man who betrayed her.  As contention between the Hebrew tribes and the foreigners fans the flames of another dangerous rebellion, Shira comes face to face with the long-hidden pain of her past.  

Can she let go of all that has defined her to embrace who she truly is and believe in a hopeful future?

My Thoughts
I fell in love with Cossette's writing earlier this year when I read her debut novel Counted with the Stars.  That title immediately earned a spot on my "keeper shelf" and I knew I would be following Cossette's writing career from then on.  I waited a bit on pins and needles for the second installment in her Out from Egypt series, Shadow of the Storm, which met every expectation I had and more!
Cossette's research and impeccable attention to detail and characterization are but a couple of the reasons I love her stories so.  The way she weaves biblical truth into the story at such pivotal points takes reading one of her novels way beyond your normal reading experience.  Take this passage for example:
"I will go wherever Yahweh leads...I was no different than Israel.  No different than a newborn babe.  Grasping, straining to define my purpose through the haze.  This nation had been conceived in spite of our forefathers' sins, woven together in the harsh womb of Egypt, and brn of great suffering.  But Yahweh was making something new, something unique and beautiful, from all our disparate, jagged pieces.  Life from death."
Cossette has the unique gift of telling a riveting story that not only keeps your attention and keeps you turning the pages, but one that also encourages the reader's own personal evaluation of present life circumstances with an eye toward the will and transforming love of the One True God.

The third installment in this series, Wings of the Wind, will be out Spring of 2017.  So, here again, I wait a bit on pins and needles!

*I received a complimentary copy of the book.  All opinions stated here are my very own.

You will enjoy the interview with author Connilyn Cossette below.
What inspired Shadow of the Storm?
SOTS was actually the third book that I wrote in this series. The concept for Book 3, Wings of the Wind, came to me first. But as soon as Shira appeared in Counted with the Stars I knew I wanted to find out more about her and her perspective on God and the Exodus. Of course, there were no plagues to work with this time, so I dealt more directly with Shira’s personal struggles and her misconceptions of her own identity. During this time there was a lot of doubt, rebellion, confusion and a fair amount of questioning God among the Hebrews and foreigners, so I used Shira’s slow path toward healing to depict some of these struggles. Our hero too, struggles with consequences of poor decisions and his own failings but comes to realize that even his messy past and broken pieces can be made into something beautiful, just like Shira, and the nation of Israel.
What was the most challenging part of writing this story?
Well, honestly I wrestled with this plot for a long while. Counted with the Stars was easy in terms of external plot, since the Book of Exodus contains exciting plot points like plagues, the sea parting, Amalekite attacks etc. But this year at Sinai is fairly vague. Other than the Golden Calf incident, building the tabernacle and, soon after they left, a horrible storm that burned the edges of camp, there was not a whole lot to drive the story forward. And honestly, my first attempt was boring. So very, very boring. I was challenged to dig deeper, delve into Shira’s wounds and create a bitter, jealous antagonist that somehow still causes the reader to sympathize with her pain. It was tough to remold the manuscript that I began with into something better, but it became a story that reveals more of my heart than any other so far.
What was your favorite part about writing this story?
The research for this story was really enjoyable. Since I am an adoptive mom, never having given birth and certainly not familiar with midwifery, I spent lots of time reading, watching videos and documentaries, consulting with a midwife, and talking with friends who experienced midwife-attended births. I learned so much about the birthing process and came to deeply appreciate the heart of those who pour their lives into the support of pregnant women, in any capacity.
What aspects of yourself did you write into Shira’s story?
Although Shira has endured a horrific act of violence that I have not, she and I share a commonality—our children entered our lives by adoption, not biologically. Writing from the perspective of a woman whose body was barren and yet her heart full of maternal yearnings was in some ways easy, since it my own experience, and in some ways difficult, in that I had to dig back into some of those feelings of grief, pain, and even jealousy that I struggled with in my seven years of waiting to be a mother. Shira is also a bit like me in that we both tend to bury our hurts and put on a happy face, either from fear of rejection or to not “bother” others with our problems.  Like Shira, I’ve been learning to let down my walls and be vulnerable and also to see my own storms as blessings that make my roots grow deeper and stronger.
SOTS deals with some difficult subject matter, why did you chose to delve into these topics?
As I was studying Exodus, something that repeatedly came floating to the top was the women at heart of the story—their suffering, their wounds, and their courage. From Shifra and Puah, the midwives who stood against Pharaoh’s edict, to Miryam who watched her brother’s long, curvy journey towards his ultimate calling, to the myriad nameless women who served as slaves beneath the harsh and evil hand of Pharaoh and the Egyptians who oppressed them, murdered their children, and treated them as property. We know from history and even from current events, evil men who seek to dominate and oppress others are the most ruthless and disrespectful to women and children. Shira’s experience in Egypt was no doubt quite common among the Hebrews. I hope to show that women who have endured even the most brutal treatment can experience healing in God’s love, can be used to bless and heal others, and are precious in the sight of our heavenly Father. Broken pieces can be made into something beautiful.
What interesting historical facts did you uncover while researching?
Learning about the construction of the Mishkan (Tabernacle) was truly fascinating to me. Before when reading through Exodus I, like most people, skimmed through the seemingly endless instructions to Moses about how each part would be crafted. Once I delved into each separate element and the intricate processes, like the weaving, that were undertaken for each thing, I realized just what a problematic building project this was. From importing flax to make linen which did not grow in the desert, to the arduous process of shearing sheep and goats for wool, to the precious purple dye that had to have been purchased from traders all the way from Tyre, where it was harvested from a rare type of snail and the shani (kermes) dye which was made from a bug that lived on a certain type of tree found only in certain parts of the middle east—each detail had to be exact to the specifications of Yahweh, in order to reflect the glory of the Heavenly Temple, which the Tabernacle was patterned after. Also, I discovered that the worshipers of Apis and Hathor, the cow gods from Egypt, drank an ochre-dyed beer during their orgiastic rituals which stained their mouths bright red, which gave me a way for those involved in the Golden Calf incident to be found among the thousands of tents in that valley. 
What spiritual themes do you want readers to take away from SOTS?
Above all my desire is for readers, especially women, to dig into the Word of God. My imaginings about the Exodus journey are just that, creations from my mind, and not in away way meant to replace the truth of Scripture. Whenever a reader reviews one of my books and says it made them go back and read the story again with a fresh perspective, I rejoice. But with regards to SOTS, my hope is that Shira’s story will inspire readers to remember how precious they are to Yahweh, how trials and tribulations are ultimately for our good; they cause us to run to our Abba, make us dig deeper into the foundation of the Word, and reveal strength and endurance that we did not know we possess. The overall spiritual theme though, is that God can take your broken pieces—those wounded, ragged, messy parts of us—and turn them into something beautiful.

Happy Reading Ya'll,