The Woman Who Named God: Abraham's Dilemma and the Birth of Three Faiths  -     By: Charlotte Gordon
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The Woman Who Named God: Abraham's Dilemma and the Birth of Three Faiths

Little, Brown & Company / 2009 / Hardcover

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Product Description

How did the ancient story of Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar---Ishmael and Isaac---become one of the least understood and most frequently misinterpreted? Gordon explores the legendary love triangle, offering a startling perspective on its very human characters---and shedding light on the ongoing conflict between the Judeo-Christian and Islamic worlds. 288 pages, hardcover from Little, Brown.

Product Information

Format: Hardcover
Number of Pages: 288
Vendor: Little, Brown & Company
Publication Date: 2009
Dimensions: 9.25 X 6.00 (inches)
ISBN: 031611474X
ISBN-13: 9780316114745
Availability: Expected to ship on or about 09/26/15.

Publisher's Description

The saga of Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar is the tale of origin for all three monotheistic faiths. Abraham must choose between two wives who have borne him two sons. One wife and son will share in his wealth and status, while the other two are exiled into the desert. Long a cornerstone of Western anxiety, the story chronicles a very famous and troubled family, and sheds light on the ongoing conflict between the Judeo-Christian and Islamic worlds.

How did this ancient story become one of the least understood and most frequently misinterpreted of our cultural myths? Gordon explores this legendary love triangle to give us a startling perspective on three biblical characters who--with their jealousies, passions, and doubts--actually behave like human beings.

THE WOMAN WHO NAMED GOD is a compelling, smart, and provocative take on one of the Bible's most intriguing and troubling love stories.

Author Bio

Charlotte Gordon graduated from Harvard College and received a Master's in Creative Writing and a Ph.D. in History and Literature from Boston University. She has published two books of poetry and, most recently, the biography Mistress Bradstreet, which was a Massachusetts Book Award Honor Book. From 1999-2001, she taught at Boston University's School of Theology. Currently, she is an assistant professor of English at Endicott College.

Publisher's Weekly

The story of Abraham, Hagar and Sarah stands at the threshold of the three great Western religions—Christianity, Judaism, Islam—although each appropriates the story differently. Although God's command of Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac, is an oft-told story, his expulsion of his concubine, Hagar, and the son he had by her, Ishmael, is often ignored. In this sometimes provocative, though often pedestrian, rereading of the Hagar story, Gordon (Mistress Bradstreet) gives new power to a woman often left in the shadows. Focusing on Hagar's vision of God in the desert (Genesis 16:13), Gordon argues that Hagar is a prophet and a mystic who names God El-Roi, or “the God of my seeing.” Because of her experience of God, Gordon argues, Hagar's relationship with God is one that Abraham might envy, for God offered Hagar clear and direct guidance, while God offered Abraham no clarity or guidance about his future but simply expected Abraham to obey. Although her prose is often plodding, Gordon provides some glimpses of the power of Hagar's story for modern religions. (July) Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.

Editorial Reviews

"Thoughtful...Gordon examines all the familiar features of the story but pays particular attention to the human feelings of jealousy and distrust that affected the trio....She offers perceptive insights into an ancient story whose consequences continue to reverberate."—Judith Chettle, Richmond Times-Dispatch
"A unique look at the Old Testament relationships between and among Abraham; his wife, Sarah; and his mistress, Hagar....Most interesting is Gordon's focus on the exiled, shamed, and shadowed Hagar, whom Gordon elevates to a mystic and prophet....Complex and multilayered....The story speaks to the 21st century....General readers with even a casual interest in religion and its impact on history, as well as on current events, will appreciate the lens through which the author peers."—C. Brian Smith, Library Journal
"Here and there on the front lines of the clash of civilizations, we can glimpse a few pockets of compassion....Gordon implores her readers to ask one of those "what-if" questions that reframe all of our conventional wisdom: "What if Abraham had chased after his mistress and firstborn son, begged Sarah to forgive his betrayal, and urged Hagar to forgive Sarah's jealousy, so that they might raise their sons together? Would we be any better at living in peace?" Gordon's provocative question hints at a more intimate aspect of the story of Hagar. .....The Bible, it has been said, is the least-read best-seller of all times. But there is a whole literature devoted to reconsidering the ancient text, a literature that is full of shocks and surprises, wholly unexpected cross-wirings of religious traditions, and illuminating flashes of insight and wisdom. On that shelf you will find Gordon's book, a superb example of how to approach the Bible."—Jonathan Kirsch,
"A refreshing viewpoint...Gordon focuses on the roles of Sarah and Hagar, Abraham's wife and concubine, and mothers to two great nations. Acknowledging the short shrift given these two remarkable women, the author provides a closer examination of their roles....Gordon adds something new to an already full body of scholarship on Abraham."—Kirkus Reviews
"Provocative...Gordon gives new power to a woman often left in the shadows. Focusing on Hagar's vision of God in the desert, Gordon argues that Hagar is a prophet and a mystic who names God El-Roi, or "the God of my seeing"....Gordon provides some glimpses of the power of Hagar's story for modern religions."—Publishers Weekly
Praise for Mistress Bradstreet:

"Gordon tells Anne Bradstreet's gripping tale, including hardships and delights, in a clear, lively style."—M.S. Mason and Rebecca Salomonsson, Christian Science Monitor
"A thorough, occasionally whimsical, and hearteningly feminist take on the life of early Puritan pioneer and pundit Anne Bradstreet.—Kirkus Reviews
"A vibrant, engaging, realistic portrayal of early colonial Massachusetts and of its fascinating biographical subject."—Ray Olson, Booklist (starred)
"Gordon has a clear engagement with Bradstreet, and the major accomplishment of this lively biography is in showing that she is as exceptional a person as the 17th-century New England she lived in."—Michael Kenney, Boston Globe

Product Reviews

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  1. 2 Stars Out Of 5
    July 28, 2009
    I am struggling to figure out how anyone can consider this a Christian book. I read three chapters and it chaffed the whole way through.Certainly this book deals with figures/heroes of our Christian faith, but I would not characterize it as a Christian book. In the introduction it's clear that the book is not an endorsement of a particular religion or religious text and I can handle that, but I will not tolerate the not-so-subtle jabs at the Book I hold most dear. The description on the back of the book "A brilliant and timely retelling of the biblical story of Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar" leads one to believe this is a novel. Though, admittedly, in never uses that word. This could be called a retelling, in the loosest of terms. It is a gathering of information - a compilation, if you will - of beliefs and oral legends of many different books from many different religions culminating in what the author believes happened in the lives of Abraham, Sarah and Hagar.But, again, it was difficult to dig through the criticisms toward God and jumps in logic just so I could get a feel for the history of Biblical times.Also, just as much - and sometimes more - credence is given to the Koran and non-canonical religious books as the Bible itself. That may be laudable from a secular standpoint, but not mine. I prefer a Christian world view. And I filter everything through that.I would be remiss if I did not mention that the author has an extensive knowledge of various historical and religious writings. And a great deal of work went into this book. And from a secular historical standpoint it's impressive.But since I cannot trust the way the Bible and the God of the universe is handled in this book, who is to say that there aren't the same assumptions and mistakes in the researching of other parts of The Woman Who Named God?I am not willing to take that chance. Are you?
  2. 4 Stars Out Of 5
    July 25, 2009
    This is an absolutely wonderfully researched historical study book. It is not a historical fiction story. It is written in a thesis/dissertation manner with careful references to how the 3 different religions have viewed the relationship between Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar. I discovered many things that I didn't realize about them and by "humanizing" them, Ms Gordon has brought to mind many emotional points that makes one ponder. Like, how did Sarai really feel about being offered to the Pharaoh. Was Hagar a member of Pharaoh's family or an Egyptian serving girl? Did Sarah ever regret sending Hagar out of the camp? Did Abraham? How have the different religions treated the relevence of God's prophecy during the night of the animal sacrifice. She has studied the different books of the Bible, Torah, and Koran as well as the many articles that have become part of the religions over the centuries. I found it well written, thought provoking, and being a woman, I was also pleased that someone took the time to investigate their relationship from a woman's point of view. Although it is about Sarah and Hagar and their relationship with Abraham, there are also chapters devoted to only Abraham and how his actions and experiences helped or hindered his relationship with his family and followers. Because it left me wanting to go off and explore some of the points for myself, I give this 4 stars.
  3. 3 Stars Out Of 5
    July 17, 2009
    My feelings about The Woman Who Named God by Charlotte Gordon are mixed. It is a thick and intimidating non-fiction book. But it is also full of great insights. It reads rather dry, but the information captured by Ms. Gordon is fascinating. It contains an informative Notes section and a helpful, but limited, dictionary.The title is misleading. This is not simply the story of Hagar, the woman who named God, calling him the God who sees me. Rather this is the story of Abraham and his relationship with God and his wives and those who touched his life. It is the story that shows where monotheistic faith originated.
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