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I Am Not Esther

A book by Fleur Beale

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Thought-provoking, honest, kind and wonderful

  • May 5, 2011

Kirby’s Mum’s a great nurse, but not very organized. Still, that’s okay. Fourteen-year-old Kirby’s efficient enough for two. Then Mum announces they’re moving. Kirby finds herself living among religious relatives who insist on calling her Esther and make her dress and act like a character from history. She’d like to run away, but where can she run? In Wellington, New Zealand, Kirby has no friends, no relatives beyond the strangers she’s told are family, and no hope.
Soon a burgeoning care for her new brothers and sisters gives Kirby another good reason not to leave—how can she desert them here? How would they cope? But how does a young teenager balance her own needs against others’, and how does she balance her own identity against the one they impose upon her.
By the end of the story Kirby and Esther are so closely intertwined the young fugitive’s not quite sure who she is, or who she can rely on. The story of her transformation and rebellion is beautifully told in Fleur Beale’s I am not Esther, even to the details of language slowly changing as the narrator absorbs her new identity. Faith and love are dealt with gently; even rebellion is tinged with the recognition of kindness; and a story of hopelessness ends with hope restored. Kirby is a wonderful character. Her journey is a fascinating, thought-provoking read, filled with vivid detail and genuine humanity. And I am not Esther is an amazing tale of survival, identity and mercy.
Disclosure: Nothing to disclose. I liked the picture on the cover. I’d just been studying Esther in the Bible. And I bought the book.

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Sheila Deeth ()
Ranked #42
Sheila Deeth's first novel, Divide by Zero, has just been released in print and ebook formats. Find it on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, etc. Her spiritual speculative novellas can be found at … more
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About this book


Sort of a Handmaid's Tale for the junior high set, New Zealander Beal's engrossing novel peers into the restricted world of the Children of the Faith, a rigidly traditional (and fictional) Christian sect. Resourceful Kirby has never known any family aside from her impractical mother, Ellen. When Ellen abruptly makes plans to fulfill her lifelong dream of working with refugees in Africa, she sends Kirby to her long-estranged brother, the strict and pious Caleb, and his wife and children. Renamed Esther ("The women of our faith all have biblical names. As do the men," explains soberly clad Aunt Naomi), Kirby chafes at the restrictions forced on her by her newfound kin: they dictate her style of dress and hair, forbid slang and even contractions, and resolutely discourage any ambitions aside from an early marriage and plenty of children. Angry and confused though she is, Kirby becomes attached to her newfound cousins, in particular the vulnerable five-year-old Maggie (Magdalene) and teenage Daniel, who is himself struggling to reconcile his interest in becoming a doctor with the community's mores. Though several plot twists seem to exist mostly to serve the novel's decidedly anti-fundamentalist stance (only dissenter Kirby, for example, has the courage to defy her uncle and get her ailing pregnant aunt the help she needs), this tale still has more than enough power to chill. Ages 12-up.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.--This text refers to an out of print or ...
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ISBN-10: 0786816732
ISBN-13: 978-0786816736
Author: Fleur Beale
Publisher: Hyperion

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