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Review of Rolf Gompertz's Abraham, The Dreamer - by Carolyn Howard-Johnson


Title: Abraham, The Dreamer
Subtitle: An Erotic and Sacred Love Story
Author: Rolf Gompertz
Publisher: iuniverse
Trade Paperback
Genre: Historical (Biblical)
ISBN: 0-595-17697-6
Pages: 260
Price: $14.95 

Reviewed by Carolyn Howard-Johnson,
Author of This is the Place and Harkening

Anyone who has ever been bothered-morally or ethically-by some of the events in the Bible may want to read Abraham, The Dreamer.  Rolf Gompertz manages to examine the doubts and questions we have all felt when reading the story of Abraham and the near sacrifice of his son, Isaac.

Gompertz uses time-honored midrash-- the telling or retelling of a legend-- to achieve that end.  He has examined the story of Abraham, Sarah, Hagar, and their sons, Isaac and Ishmael as it is told in the Bible.  Then he has studied interpretations by biblical philosophers, psychologists and other experts, and so given the ancient story new life, new meaning without losing any of its authentic qualities.

As Gompertz examines the possible motivations for the actions of the characters, the Biblical tale comes to life for even a casual reader.  After all, as Gompertz says, his "primary concern is to shed light on the human condition."

This biblical novel offers an intriguing, unconventional and daring interpretation of the life of Abraham, Sarah and Hagar, the "First Family" of Jews, Christians and Muslims.

The biblical text tells us little about Sarah, but Gompertz's version boldly suggests that Abraham's wife is a high priestess serving Inanna, the Sumerian goddess of War and Love.  Sarah, who has become pregnant when her religious order forbids that, orders the child killed..  Abraham revolts against this practice and, in that moment, hears the call of a new, singular, unseen God who tells him to go forth to a new and different land.  Ironically, he is also told that he will become the father of a multitude.

Later, Sara feels alienated from her husband--spiritually, emotionally and physically.  In desperation, she offers Abraham her handmaid, Hagar.  It is her hope that they could have the child that had been denied to her.  When she does so, she is unaware of the attraction that has already developed between her husband and the lovely young girl who is part of their household.

It is a matter of Biblical record that Hagar gives birth to Ishmael. When the jealous Sarah gives birth unexpectedly to Isaac, she breaks up the idyllic relationship between Abraham and Hagar, driving Abraham's  "other love" and her son, Ishmael, away forever.

Abraham has difficulties other than those surrounding his home.  He tries to understand the will of his new God.  In his despair over losing Hagar, he falls back on pagan sacrificial practices, and proceeds to sacrifice Isaac, believing that this is what his new God has asked of him.  Ultimately, the book asks the difficult question:  How can we ever know the will of God with certainty?  In the final showdown between Abraham and Sarah, the author offers a surprising and startling answer to this question.

It should be noted that this Jewish author uses explicit language in his effort to meld the meanings of spiritual and physical love and how those relate to one's life of worship. I appreciated that, though it was explicit, I never found it offensive.

I also found that reading about these people in the context of a love triangle made me look at many Biblical stories in a different light.  The time, the place, the culture, and the evolution of religion all influence the thoughts and actions of people, then, now and forever more.  We ought not forget that.

For Bible scholars the bibliography alone will be worth the price of the book.

(Carolyn Howard-Johnson is the author of two award-winning
This is the Place  and  Harkening:
A Collection of Stories Remembered.  Both books are set in Utah
where the author was born and raised and both provide a unique
view of the corrosive nature of prejudice.
Learn more at
or  order at


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