Deconstructing “For Such a Time,” Part 4: What Really Matters

Subtitle: The End Times (Finally)

I’ve written a lot of words about this book. I was going to write even more — more excerpts and more articles and more self-righteous sarcasm about hidden anti-Semitism.

Then I came across an interview with author Kate Breslin posted mid-August on a video series called “Heritage of Truth.”

I didn’t watch it. I couldn’t even look past the YouTube caption. My words died. My brain shut down. My capslock key whimpered in fear.

I can’t handle any more close reads. My tolerance is gone. I’ve finally hit Outrage Fatigue.

Faith is not us vs. them.

Open your eyes. Open your ears. Open your hearts. Get your heads out of your asses.

But to really understand why talking about For Such a Time is still important — why it will always be important — other people’s words matter much more than mine.

These are the voices that resonated strongly with me.


Marc Chagall, White Crucifixion, 1938 (Copyrighted image from the Art Institute of Chicago)White Crucifixion, Marc Chagall, 1938

The 1938 painting White Crucifixion represents a critical turning point for the artist Marc Chagall: it was the first of an important series of compositions that feature the image of Christ as a Jewish martyr and dramatically call attention to the persecution and suffering of European Jews in the 1930s.

In White Crucifixion, his first and largest work on the subject, Chagall stressed the Jewish identity of Jesus in several ways: he replaced his traditional loincloth with a prayer shawl, his crown of thorns with a headcloth, and the mourning angels that customarily surround him with three biblical patriarchs and a matriarch, clad in traditional Jewish garments. At either side of the cross, Chagall illustrated the devastation of pogroms: On the left, a village is pillaged and burned, forcing refugees to flee by boat and the three bearded figures below them—one of whom clutches the Torah— to escape on foot. On the right, a synagogue and its Torah ark go up in flames, while below a mother comforts her child. By linking the martyred Jesus with the persecuted Jews and the Crucifixion with contemporary events, Chagall’s painting passionately identifies the Nazis with Christ’s tormentors and warns of the moral implications of their actions.

~ The Art Institute of Chicago


For all the pain you suffered, my mama. For all the torment of your past and future years, my mama. For all the anguish this picture of pain will cause you. For the unspeakable mystery that brings good fathers and sons into the world and lets a mother watch them tear at each other’s throats. For the Master of the Universe, whose suffering world I do not comprehend. For dreams of horror, for nights of waiting, for memories of death, for the love I have for you, for all the things I remember, and for all the things I should remember but have forgotten, for all these I created this painting — an observant Jew working on a crucifixion because there was no aesthetic mold in his own religious tradition into which he could pour a painting of ultimate anguish and torment.

~ My Name is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok


My Christian coworkers feel comfortable wearing a cross necklace. I do not wear a Star of David and I hide my last name when dealing with the public at work. I have been ranted at too many times with ideas from the Protocols of Zion, been given too much literature, too many lectures to try to bring me to Jesus, when I’m just trying to do my job. A job where I have to use vacation days to get off major holidays, vacation days a former employer used to deny because the other Jewish person I worked with had seniority.

This is modern Anti-Semitism, the micro-and-macro aggressions of daily life that come with being Jewish in the US in 2015.

~ Jen Rothschild


…That’s the appeal of all this. It assures folks their ignorance is a virtue and their patriotism is a virtue, regardless of consequences.

… Regardless of their actions or the consequences of said actions, the intentions are ultimately magical. They don’t mean to commit genocide.

… That’s why it works so well in the Christian world-view, especially Protestant. Your true intentions ultimately determine your fate.

… Salvation comes through grace and faith. Actions can be sinful, but really, it boils down to your faith, your intentions.

… Because the Nazi regime didn’t depend solely on a handful of fanatical genocidal True Believers overseeing the rest of the innocent country.

… It depended on a history of antisemitism built into the culture, ongoing passivity, and a belief in the fundamental goodness of patriotism.

… And the notion that ordinary people can come to see murder as good so long as they distance themselves from the victims & benefit from it.

… The fact that this kind of thing is popular in the US and in Christian fiction is a direct consequence of that propaganda.

… But it comforts people who don’t want to get their hands dirty in challenging the social structures that benefit them. It supports power.

~ India Valentin


Anti-Semitism in America is deliberate, insidious, and manipulative.

… anti-Semitism in America wears many masks, and one of them is silence. It is as violent as the others. Silence is not neutrality. Silence allows, if not fosters, oppression, aggression, and erasure. If you are silent on this book, please take a moment to examine why you are silent.

… Because we fear, even now, today, that one day, it’ll happen again. Here. And history has proven to us again, and again, and again, that we can say never again, and we can say never forget, but we Jews are the only ones saying that. When you erase the Holocaust, you erase me. You say that my life is meaningless. You say, you are only an object.

…I’ve had more kind comments than cruel ones, it’s true. More people saying I’ve opened their eyes to issues of anti-Semitism in the United States than people who have emailed me Holocaust denial, Holocaust jokes, tweeted swastikas at me, etc. But the cruel ones, the offensive ones, the hate…it sticks to your mind. It bends your back. It sinks into your bones. It exhausts you. It drains you. It destroys.

~ Katherine Locke


But here’s the thing: I live in a time and a place where it is not illegal to speak up. It is not illegal to be Jewish. I live in a country that was built on political dissidents and ragged refugees, a country whose birth was defined by the idea that protest is a gorgeous, progressive thing. I can worship how I like. I can speak my mind. And there are millions of men and women and children who never had that opportunity. Who never will.

And despite that, we’ve known all our lives that life is easier when we keep our heads down and our mouths shut. When we allow the world to ignore us. When we allow the world to erase us.

But I will not be ignored. I will not let anyone to erase us from history. I will raise my head, and I will shout for everyone who cannot.

We are here. We are still here. After everything–after everything–we are still here.

~ Sara Taylor Woods


But let’s be real clear, shall we?

You may not use tragedies that we have suffered through as a vehicle for your religious agenda.

Why are we still angry?

Why are we still angry?

Why are you giving us reasons to still be angry?

Why are you telling us that it’s not that big a deal?

That we’re too “WHITE” to have ever been persecuted?

That we don’t have what to complain about?

When have you lived the life of a Jew in 2015?

Have you realized yet that anti-semitism has never left? That it is more subtle now, that it’s ‘calm down, it wasn’t such a big deal’?

Why are we still angry?

We have never stopped being angry.

We will never stop being angry.

~ KK Hendin


Bloody hell.

Just as I finished proofreading this post, a new article came across my Twitter timeline:

Do Novelists Have to Be Politically Correct Now?Appropriating a controversy and draping in “political correctness” and “discomfiture”  to promote your own book? Badly done, Warren Adler. Badly done.

One more quote, and then I’m really truly done.

Arguing that anyone can write anything about anyone at any time, or else it is censorship, is the publishing equivalent of #AllLivesMatter.

~ lutheranjulia

Deconstructing “For Such a Time,” Part 3: The Fallacy of the Magic Bible

NOTE: I was watching Esther and the King while working on this.

Esther and the King, 1960

Just a heads up in case Joan Collins in all her Holy Blue Eyeshadow wanders in once in a while to keep things interesting.


In case you missed the backstory of all this….


When I first saw the brief review and subsequent discussion of For Such a Time on SBTB, my reaction, after throwing up in my mouth over the whole premise (more on that soon, stick around), was “nooooo.”

A Magic Bible.



Note to any and all inspie authors and publishers who have actually read this far or even skimmed or whatever:


And I thought the one-off Magical Bible Verses were bad. I’ve ranted about those before. No, it has to be an actual Magic Bible that appears out of nowhere and follows the heroine around like a puppy with an invisibility cloak or something.

*sits on hands*

I found myself reflecting on why I specifically hate the “Magic Bible Verse” trope so much. That one is pretty easy: Because, seriously, whose Bible actually works like that? Mine doesn’t.

If God and the Bible worked like that WE WOULDN’T NEED INSPIRATIONAL FICTION.

See what I did there?

In my tiny little unworthy opinion, there is no better way to dangle the Bible in front of a doubter and then snatch it away again. It’s a “ha, ha, ha, this is why you can’t have nice things!” sneer to emphasize how much more the author knows and loves God because she knows exactly what God would say.


So. In my continuing quest to show off my smartypants and not (just) my rantypants, I’m going to keep with the “deconstruction” of For Such a Time by talking about the Fallacy of the Magic Bible, focusing on deus ex machina, conflation and proof-texting. We’ll cover the definitions first, and then we’ll look at a few (of the many, many) examples from the novel that abuse all three logical and literary no-nos.

Then we’ll talk about irony. Unintentional irony. The burning, itching kind of unintentional irony. A book-long tidal wave of unintentional irony that leaves sand in your underpants for days. Continue reading

Further Deconstructing “For Such a Time,” Part 2: Allegory, Schmallegory

In case you missed it….


I believe any allegory or a re-telling or even a “reframing” promises the reader a more than superficial resemblance. As an inspie reader, my Default Reader Trust Mode tells me that the author of a fictionalized Bible story — even one described in such vague tones as a “reframing” — has taken on the greater responsibility to go beyond the surface to tell the whole story.

A biblical story calls its readers to enter its world, to be captivated by its characters, intrigued by its plot, and affectively engaged through suspense and complication till its final denouement. Biblical stories invite us into a world contoured by ancient conventions, yet pulsing with continuous relevance. …[A] story is a whole that conveys meaning through its totality, through the choice and placement of its parts, and through the sum of its parts.1


The parts of the story can be understood only as they relate to the integrity of the whole literary structure, and, conversely, the point of the story in all of its complexity can be best understood by pondering the significance of each part.3

If I’m reading a retelling a book of the Bible, I take it as a given that the author will be faithful to the meaning and intent of that story — not just the character names and superficial plot points.

In all fairness, not every character and verse needs a corollary in a fictionalized Bible story. Other Esther-inspired novels do without Queen Vashti, and the beauty contest, and the poetic justice and the glorious irony of the scriptures, and still give good story.

For Such a Time is not “good story.”

Yes, I know that “reframing” equals “jumping off point.” But when you jump off something, there’s an implication you’re reasonably assured of a safe landing without falling on your arse.

For Such a Time shows its arse on nearly every page.

Arse is not profanity because it’s British.

I’d like to say I am confounded why author Kate Breslin chose the specific elements of the Esther story that appear in For Such a Time and ignored others. However, it’s painfully obvious (I’m using that phrase repeatedly, but argh) which elements got in the way of the story she wanted to tell. Some are of the “huh?” variety, while others are downright “WTF???” egregious.

Acronyms do not count as actual profanity. I checked.

In my one week of research, I found dozens of books and articles on the story of Esther, from Christian exegetic textual analysis to Talmudic and rabbinic commentaries to YA novels to preschool coloring books.

Also, Joan Collins movies. Totally not kidding.

Esther and the King, 1960

If I was an inspie author, I would bury myself in these sources and wallow in them. I would absorb everything and pick it apart and put it back together again to figure out how best to relate God’s word to readers looking for a good story.

[NOTE: I would wallow in the Joan Collins movie, but I’d probably avoid actually absorbing anything.]

I honestly believe that Breslin — and her editors — read none of the same non-fiction titles I did. I seriously doubt the editors of the book consulted even one of the eleventy-five Bible study guides available from their own publishing house.

Eleventy-five is hyperbole, not snark. Continue reading

Further Deconstructing “For Such a Time”: An Angry Book Nerd Manifesto

NOTE: I had all this written and formatted and was doing a final proofread when this popped up in my Twitter feed:


Bloody hell. Un.Effing.Believable.


Related posts:


Oh. You thought we were all in the “Over It” phase of the Outrage Cycle? I want to be “over it.” But I’m not.

I'm not coming down until someone apologies

This epic manifesto is an attempt to render my tangle of thoughts into a coherent analysis. By “epic,” I mean long (you are not surprised). By “manifesto,” I mean pseudo-intellectual ranting with fake academic subheadings and loads of pretentious “-ism” words and footnotes. I think “manifesto” implies “long” as well, so I’m already being redundant but I really like the word “manifesto” because it makes me feel very…powerful…in a “didn’t-even-have-to-get-off-the-couch-woohoo!” kind of way. I’m keeping “epic” too because people look for “epic” stuff and that will totally boost my SEO and I might even go viral.

I really like run-on sentences.

This post is the first of…several? I keep finding new stuff and then I have to rewrite everything and I have no idea how you author types ever actually get anything done.

If you’re sticking around for this, get yourself a snack and settle in.

*girds loins*



The obligatory #NotAllChristians intro to prove how enlightened I am about my recognizing and acknowledging my privilege and no that’s not hypocritical at all shut up and let me finish I’m just getting started here

As with my previous posts, I am thinking and researching and writing about For Such a Time1 because I am part of the target market. I’m writing this to (1) justify how much time I’ve spent obsessing over this book; (2) validate my righteous indignation; and (3) process why this has become some kind of personal mission for me.

I know the author and publishers have their fingers in their ears. They clearly don’t care.

The truth doesn't change just because you don't want to hear it

Bethany House’s Statement and Our Response

I do care. I care a lot. I’m learning a lot. I hope my voice will help escalate the discussion from a different kind of “Christian worldview” – one that not only cringes at but thoroughly disavows self-righteous revisionism and supersessionism.

I can’t write about it from anyone else’s point of view. I can only read what others have written2 and internalize their stories to reinterpret what I’ve read and inspire me (see what I did there?) to learn more.

I think I will request “Learn More” as the epitaph on my gravestone. When I die in a book avalanche.



In which I use the word “deconstruct” unironically.

I know. I had to. It’s the only way some high-minded people will take this manifesto seriously. Which is completely understandable what with all the gay werewolf orgies and whatnot around here.

Are you ready? Here we go:

*straightens bra straps*

The purpose of this post is to deconstruct why the novel For Such a Time by Kate Breslin fails its intended audience and its sub-genre of religious fiction.

Whether we call label it “Christian fiction” or “inspirational fiction,” whether it’s marketed as an “allegory” or a “retelling” or a “reframing” or even a mere “inspired by,” this book is a full-on hot mess of plug-n-play Bible verses presented with all the subtlety of a Looney Tunes anvil dropping.

Looney Anvil Dropping, featuring Road Runner and Wile E. CoyoteIf you mess with — or ignore — the basic elements of the original story, you change the outcome. Unless you’re specifically calling it a fairy tale or alternate history, not acceptable in an allegory/retelling.

If you mess with — or ignore — the basic elements of the original story, you change the meaning and the impact. Never acceptable in a retelling of a Bible story.

By (1) ignoring reader expectations; (2) cherry-picking superficial bits of the source material; (3) conflating the story with scriptural themes unrelated to the source material; (4) relying on deus ex machina and proof-texted divine interventions to drive the plot; and (5) deliberately choosing a setting solely for shock value, this so-called “inspirational” novel ignores and subverts the themes and messages of the Book of Esther so badly as to be nearly unrecognizable.

Instead of “reframing” the characters and themes of the Book of Esther to support the message God wants us to hear, Breslin uses whatever Bible verses she can find to support the story she wants to tell.


  • I am not a Bible scholar; all opinions and observations and conclusions are my own. If you don’t agree, please – in all sincerity – call me out. I’m here to learn.
  • I’m using the terms “Bible” and “Biblical” for simplicity and my own familiarity.
  • I’m trying very hard to avoid snark and profanity and all-caps ranting. Wish me luck.

Also, please note I used a Looney Tunes analogy before the disclaimer. If all abstracts had Wile E. Coyote shout-outs and kicked off with a Ritual Straightening of the Bra Straps, I would have stayed in grad school. Continue reading

Fuck It. I’m Going Full Snark.

In case you missed it, here are the related posts:


Me to myself yesterday:

There’s a lot of confusion about what exactly does and doesn’t occur in That Book. I think it would be worthwhile to lay out the critical plot points and character backstories.

Today on Twitter:Writing an FAQTwo hours later:

Full SnarkYou’ve been warned.

If you’re looking for smart people saying smart things, go here:

Otherwise, GFTO, I’m going in.

The main characters

Stella Muller/Hadassah Benjamin. Our heroine. She’s Jewish, but had false papers claiming she’s Aryan. It’s easy to believe because thanks to her Dutch grandmother, she has hair the color of gold and eyes as blue as the Judean sky. Hadassah is her Hebrew name and Stella is her Aryan alter ago; this mirrors the holy texts, except the ancient Hadassah becomes Esther when she’s made Queen of Persia. In the book, she’s known as Stella until she proclaims her Jewishness.

Colonel Aric von Schmidt. Our hero. He’s the SS officer newly assigned the command of Theresienstadt. But he’s not really SS – he was invalided out of the Wehrmacht (the field army) after ten years and many battles. He calls his new SS colleagues “mangy curs” and “uniformed thugs” which proves that he’s not a True Nazi. Aric is  Austrian; his father was a baron and a self-described “gentleman farmer.” His name is spelled with an “A” because he’s the modernized version of Ahasuerus, King of Persia. I have no idea how to pronounce “Ahasuerus.” It keeps coming out as “Asuharious.”

Uncle Morty, full name Mordecai Benjamin. He’s Stella’s uncle, but has raised her as a daughter after she was orphaned. Morty is the conscience on Stella’s shoulder, whispering to her to keep the faith.

Captain Hermann. He’s second in command at the camp, a career SS man, and a brutal bully. He’s kinda pissy that he didn’t get promoted to commandant. Hermann = Haman, chief toady to the Persian king and Mordecai’s archenemy.

Hardly any snark! Except for that one bit about the True Nazis. If you can’t handle that, GTFO because there’s more.

Chapters 1-4

Stella wakes up in a strange room and meets Colonel Aric. We learn she was at Dachau, but she was there by mistake and he’s the kind of officer that doesn’t tolerate mistakes made against women with blond hair and blue eyes. Stella has exactly the secretarial skills he needs, because of course she does, so he’s taking her with him to his new post as commandant of Theresienstadt.

“…as easily as I netted you from that cesspool Dachau, I can toss you back.”

Stella’s blond hair is shorn, so as they’re getting in the SS car to head out to Czechoslovakia, Aric reaches into his pocket and pulls out a red wig.

No, really.

For Such a Time - The Red Wig Continue reading

Just Because You CAN….

…doesn’t mean you SHOULD.

Yes, this is about That Book.

Let’s go ahead and Voldemort it now that it’s hit mainstream media:

For Such a Time by Kate Breslin, published in April 2014 by Bethany House.

Last week, a bunch of us on Twitter decided to actually read the damn book. We all read it for different reasons — as romance readers and romance authors, as Protestants and Catholics and Jews and Hindus, as educated people who like to think of ourselves as enlightened, open-minded human beings.

We are still in the midst of an epic discussion via Google doc¹, and I am learning so much. I am obsessing over this book, because the unpacking is endless.

ETA:  The great posts by our discussion group


This post is my introductory brain dump on why I read it. Stayed tuned, and hang in there with me. This will require a lot of wine and chocolate.

ETA: My follow-up posts:


I read this book because…

I am an inspie reader.

I’m a (former) participant in the Bethany House blogger review program (I am soooo getting kicked out for this), and a (former) fan of the imprint and most of their authors. I’ve read dozens of Bethany House books, rated many 4 or 5 stars on Goodreads, and full-on squeed over a few.

I feel like I should apologize to everyone for this.

I am very disturbed that book people I felt a spiritual affinity with could possibly think the premise of this story was acceptable. Continue reading

Weekend O’ Random Lists: The Colonial/Revolutionary Binge

The party continues with a list that’s not so random – my recent reads about colonial, revolutionary and post-war/frontier America. I’d been hoarding most of these for years, but finally got inspired by — wait for it — Jude Devereux’s The Raider.

Most are from inspie publishers, who seem to be the only ones interested in non-Brit settings. Maybe someday Harlequin will discover early America. I would GLOM THAT SO HARD. That sounds vaguely dirty, but you know what I mean.

All the family pics are from a trip to Washington D.C.,  in 2008 to visit my little sis, who had an actual job actually schmoozing actual politicians. She likes that sort of thing (*~*shudder*~*).


Damn, my kids are cute.

Things 1&2 were eight and five. We spent July 4th at Mount Vernon, where it was approximately 157 degrees, with mosquitoes the size of bats and restroom lines nine miles long. It sounded like a good idea at the time.


The colonial era

The Winthrop Woman by Anya Seton

The Winthrop Woman by Anya Seton
The story of Elizabeth Fones Winthrop Feake Hallet,  a founder of Greenwich, Connecticut, and ancestor of Howard Dean,  John Kerry, Amelia Earhart, Bill Gates and Johnny Depp. No, seriously. Not quite as good as Seton’s Katherine, but definitely a must-read. There’s some info-dumping when the narrative skips ahead a few months or years, but the heroine’s struggles with her Puritan community and the harshness of the early settlements are incredibly vivid and memorable. Grade: A- (HMH, 1958; purchased (I own all of Seton in paper, ebook and audio)) Continue reading