Better than the original
I first became a fan of Uvi Poznansky when we were both selected as contributors to an anthology of medical thrillers. As I read more of her work, I grew increasingly impressed with how effectively she writes across genres, shaping her style, tone, and tempo to the story being told. Perhaps that explains why, when she turns to historical fiction based on well-known biblical characters and accounts, we find her at her most poetic.
“A Favorite Son” revisits the family of the Hebrew patriarch Isaac at the time that sons Jacob and Esau are vying for both their father’s affection and for his inheritance or ‘the birthright.’ Uvi’s narrative immediately reminded me of the puzzlement I have experienced when reading this biblical account—wondering why the conniving and deceit of Isaac’s wife Rebecca and the second-born of his twins, Jacob, were somehow presented as admirable. In Uvi’s beautifully written retelling of the story, set in modern times but still in a nomadic, patriarchal community of desert dwellers, Uvi suggests that even in the most blessed of families, husbands and wives, fathers and sons, and brothers and brothers are often left to work through the weakness, greed, and deceits of their humanity while surrounded by “the silence of God.” Though his deception, as we know from the biblical account, does lead to Jacob obtaining the birthright, Poznansky shows us that birthright is not always ‘a blessing’ and that the sins of the fathers can indeed be visited upon their sons for generations thereafter.
Several earlier reviewers were troubled by the ambivalence of the time frame created by this nomadic family living in a day of trains, planes, and automobiles. I frankly found that a clever and provocative conveyance of the message that what is old is new, and that the family squabbles and dysfunctions of the ancients are no less the challenges of our own fragile relationships. As importantly, this modern retelling illuminates in beautiful prose the layers of meaning and message that lie in what we may once have viewed as a simple explanation of a hiccup in patriarchal order. The audio narration by David Kudler only adds to the poetic quality of this captivating and beautifully presented tale.