Book Review: The Prince and the Prodigal by Jill Eileen Smith

  • Title: The Prince and the Prodigal
  • Author: Jill Eileen Smith
  • Where to buy: Amazon (affiliate link)
  • Genre: Christian Fiction, Women’s Fiction, Historical Fiction
  • Would I recommend: Definitely! Jill Eileen Smith is a master of Christian historical fiction.

Synopsis:

Joseph is the pampered favorite son of the patriarch Jacob. His older brothers, deeply resentful of his status in the family, take advantage of the chance to get rid of him, selling him to slave traders and deceiving their father about his fate. It seems like their troubles are over. But for Joseph and older brother Judah, they are just beginning.

While Joseph is accused of rape and imprisoned, Judah attempts to flee the memory of his complicity in the betrayal of his younger brother. After decades apart, the brothers will come face-to-face in a stunning role reversal that sees Joseph in a position of great power while Judah begs for mercy. Will forgiveness or vengeance win the day?

Bestselling and award-winning author Jill Eileen Smith brings her considerable research and imaginative skills to bear in this vivid retelling of one of the most popular stories found in Scripture–a story of jealousy, betrayal, and a reconciliation that only God could bring about.

My review:

I’ve always enjoyed Jill Eileen Smith’s books, and The Prince and the Prodigal does not disappoint. If you’re familiar with the story of Joseph in Genesis, you likely already know the outline – Joseph, the favored son, is sold to a caravan of traders by his older brothers, ends up as a slave in Egypt, and after many years, finds himself second only to Pharaoh, well placed to help his family survive a devastating famine. But you may not know much about Judah other than his name and the fact that he was one of Joseph’s brothers.

Here, Smith fleshes out the scriptural account of Joseph, and she also provides an engrossing account of the life of Judah, his older brother. When you read the words on the page of your Bible, you get the gist of the story. Smith brings those words to life in vivid detail.

It had never occurred to me that perhaps Joseph didn’t enjoy being the favored son. Here, he’s portrayed as a young man who wants to learn from his father and grandfather and share the faith that is so important to them, but who’s deeply troubled at the rift his father’s affection for him causes between him and his brothers. Smith’s writing made him a much more sympathetic character for me. He was more than just the snot-nosed favorite who seemed to lord it over his siblings by telling him about his dreams and how they’d bow to him someday.

And never once had it crossed my mind how Judah might have felt after he and his brothers made the call, first, to toss Joseph into a pit and leave him for dead, and then to pull him out of the pit and sell him to slavers. And then to go home and lie to their father about what happened after that? The guilt must have been crushing. It’s no wonder he ran off and lived in Canaan for a good long while. He fled from facing his father, and ran from his father’s God, too.

Smith draws a wonderful portrait of both Joseph and Judah doing their best to seek (or in Judah’s case, find) God in the midst of their struggles. Joseph believes in God, but often can’t fathom why God has put him in a foreign land, in a prison, in a situation where he isn’t free to leave and go home. Judah has resisted the God of his father, yet God still finds him, even far from home, and restores the things that have been broken. The picture for both of them is of a loving God leading them through difficulty if they will just trust and follow and keep doing the next right thing. The story closes on a beautiful note of redemption and restoration, and I’ll tell ya, I needed a tissue or two.

If you enjoy a good work of historical fiction with a clear emphasis on faith in and reliance on God, with well-written characters and a world described so well you feel like you could step right into the pages, you’ll love The Prince and the Prodigal. Five stars from me.

Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this book from the publisher, Revell. All opinions here are mine, and I don’t say nice things about books I don’t actually like.

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