Bible, Blog Tour, Book Review, Books, christian fiction, Christian Writer, New Author, The Word of God

BOOK REVIEW: ‘The Wanderer Scorned’ by Natasha Woodcraft

The first murder

Most people have heard of the story of Cain and Abel. The story of two brothers, one good, one bad, born at the beginning of time. Murderous Cain killed his brother Abel, because God accepted Abel’s sacrifice and not his. But is that the whole story? You can read the story in Genesis 4, but it doesn’t tell you much more than that. Except that Cain is confronted by God and cursed to be a fugitive, forced to leave his home and family behind.

Front cover of 'The Wanderer Scorned' featuring a close up of the face of a man half hidden in darkness, with sad eyes.

In ‘The Wanderer Scorned’ Natasha Woodcraft has done something few of us would dare to do. She has taken this story and, using her imagination, created a backdrop for a crime that has been condemned for millennia. Her starting point is ‘why?’ Why did Cain, a man who knew and heard God, murder his brother? Was it just a fit of jealousy over a misjudged sacrifice, or did it go much deeper than that? The story she creates makes Cain a human being just like any one of us. Exploring the idea that every human being has within them the capacity to do dreadful things, under certain circumstances, driven by wrong emotions, past hurts and long carried pain.

The Effect of the Curse

Genesis 3 tells us that Adam and Eve broke covenant with God, and were banished from the garden and His presence and protection. At that moment mankind became cursed – with physical and emotional pain, with negative emotions that they had never known before. Guilt, shame, distrust, jealousy, anger, misunderstanding and lust to name a few. At the same time the earth itself was cursed – with thorns and weeds, predatory animals and insects that could desecrate harvests. It was into that cursed world that Cain and Abel were born. The Wanderer Scorned shows Adam and Eve, themselves outcasts, trying to navigate this new reality and carrying the guilt of what their sin would mean for all of mankind, including their own offspring.

The front cover of 'The Wanderer Scorned' superimposed on a desert scene, with the words 'a tale of love, hate, faith and doubt: obscured by centuries of rumour'

Great descriptive writing

Natasha Woodcraft has done an amazing job in describing what the earth might have looked like then and how Adam and his family might have lived in it, dealing with every new experience as they come across it. The way the family grow in their understanding of how to make the most out of creation’s bounty rings true. She extends the timing of the events of Genesis 2-4 over many, many years, and adds additional children, including a twin sister for Abel.

Her greatest skill is in her characterisation. Cain (Kayin) is a very real, and strangely sympathetic character, whilst Abel (Havel), the ‘good’ brother, although kind and godly, also has the ability to irritate! The author is very careful not to excuse what Cain did, but what she does is very cleverly construct a plausible set of causative factors for his act. We experience Cain’s grief, anger, jealousy and mistrust, but we also see him loving his family, serving them well, and working hard to get the best out of the land. The serpent too has a major role.

Engrossing and Enjoyable

I found it an engrossing and enjoyable read. I loved the references to Elohim, and to the time in the garden before the fall, which Adam and Eve bring to her story in their memories. The story also includes beautiful songs of praise, written by the author, based on the words of the Psalms.

I believe Natasha Woodcraft has done an amazing job in fictionalising a really difficult biblical story, in a way that makes you think, and consider the very nature of humanity. The Wanderer Scorned is the first of three books retelling Cain’s story, and I am very much looking forward to reading the next one.

Ask the Author!

Image of the author, Natasha Woodcraft

I was curious as to how and why Natasha chose to write this book, and about the songs she included, so I asked her!

I understand that you believe God put it on your heart to write Cains’ story, and that He inspired you in the writing of it. Can you explain a bit more about how you actually wrote The Wanderer Scorned?

Wow, great question! It’s tricky to say, ‘God inspired me to write,’ isn’t it? It sounds like I’m claiming some kind of authority, but really, I’m not. I woke up early one morning with an idea; It was a complete surprise to me. So, I prayed (really, God?), read the Bible (the first six chapters of Genesis), then sat down and started writing. The first words I wrote were, ‘It all started with the banishment.’ They are still where Kayin’s story starts!

I think what God put on my heart that morning was communicating that Cain was a bad person, yes, but so am I. It’s so easy for me to judge other people: I have to constantly repent of this. Writing from Kayin’s point of view was a spiritual journey, an exploration into both his character and God’s. Giving Cain a voice enabled him to ask all those questions I sometimes keep bottled up. (Was God fair in His dealings with Cain? Why would he reject his sacrifice?) Also, it was an acknowledgement of the fact that, given the right set of circumstances, I might be capable of what he did, which is a harrowing thought. Oh, how I need Jesus!

People have lots of very strong opinions about the early chapters of Genesis. I spent a lot of time researching, reading and revising, trying to pitch something realistic and challenging but not offensive. I hope I succeeded.

There were several times when I ‘got stuck’. At these times, I prayed, and then I opened the Bible. I remember vividly the night I found Psalm 50: it was a game-changer. Suddenly, in that Psalm, I saw everything I needed to complete Kayin’s story; it was a real gift from God. I also often find inspiration from walking. I wrote the prologue in my head when walking my dog around a lake – then quickly ran home to scribble it down before I forgot it!

The Wandered Scorned has two songs written out in full, which you have written music to and recorded. Where can people find these?

It does! They are on my YouTube channel, which you can find here.

‘The Wanderer Scorned is available now in both paperback and eBook. Visit www.natashawoodcraft.com for more information on Natasha’s books, songs and to follow her personal blog.

Image showing kindle and paperback versions of the book

Joy Margetts is a blogger and a published author. Her debut novel ‘The Healing‘ was published by Instant Apostle on 19 March 2021, and her second ‘The Pilgrim‘ in July 2022. Her books are works of historical fiction, set in medieval Wales against the backdrop of Cistercian abbey life; stories of faith, hope and God’s redemptive power. Joy has also self- published a short novella, ‘The Beloved‘ as both a companion to ‘The Healing‘, and as an easy to read standalone story, which is available to buy on Amazon Kindle.

More information on Joy and her writing, and links to purchase her books can be found here www.joymargetts.com

Book Review, Books, Christian Writer, Faith, New Author, The Word of God

GUEST BLOG: BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU START!   by Susan Sutherland

Instead of my ramblings, this week on the blog I am pleased to invite a new writer friend of mine, Susan Sutherland, to guest blog about how she came to write her book. If you love Biblical fiction you will love her book ‘Leaving Bethany‘, an imagination based around the story of Martha of Bethany.

BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU START!

“You should write the story from Lazarus’s point of view!”

This comment was in response to me writing Leaving Bethany from Martha’s point of view rather than her brother’s. When I asked why, I was told it would be more interesting.

Let’s rewind a bit.

It was five years ago, when I can only say, I received the call to write a novel about Martha of Bethany. The over worked woman whose story Luke told us in chapter 10 of his gospel. Having only written non-fiction articles which found their way into education and nursery journals before, I found the prospect of writing fiction daunting. Just one short story, well I thought I can cope with that. Then what about a short novella? That would not take too much time surely. Before long it was the length of a novel. Then before I know it, I’m on with the sequel, with a third in a trilogy taking shape in my brain.

The message of this is to be very careful what you start, you don’t know where it will lead! The other message is to take whatever help you can get. I knew nothing about creative writing, except that I was an avid reader from being a child. The daughter of a reading mother, who I knew read my Christmas books before wrapping them and took me to the library every week. I met with poets and authors, googled “how to write a novel”, and took it all on board.

DON’T TAKE ON EVERY PIECE OF ADVICE

Oh, another message to take from this, is don’t take on every piece of advice. I knew the story had to be Martha’s, and not that of her brother, Lazarus. The story of Jesus’s female disciples is not often told, and I wanted to redress that imbalance. Read the gospels and Acts of the Apostles slowly and you will find them, some hidden away and others on full view.

Martha, the overworked and overwrought sister of the devout and spiritual one. That is just a cliché I want to dispel. Women in the Bible were as real and complex as women today, and how we have been throughout history. But perhaps their stories are not as often told or diminished into neatly boxed clichés. It was time to open the box and let Martha and Mary out. I hope and pray that I do them justice, and their brother Lazarus along the way too.

MEETING JESUS: THE PIVOTAL POINT

Martha says of meeting Jesus. “This was to be the pivotal point in my life. There was my life before that moment and now there is life after that moment.” (She may not have actually said these exact words, but these are the words I have given her.)

Leaving Bethany is the story of Martha and how she became a teacher in the new faith and worked at the heart of the group of believers who followed Jesus after his death and resurrection. But those who killed Jesus were still looking for ways to prevent his message of love from spreading, and would stop at nothing, including murder. It would not be long before persecution knocked at Martha’s gate.

To find out what happened next, you will have to read Leaving Bethany and follow Martha’s journey through danger, betrayal and finding a friend and ally in an unlikely place.

Susan Sutherland is the author of Leaving Bethany. For details on how to buy her novel go to her website https://leavingbethany.com/buy/

Aemilia Metella is Susan’s fictional first century female journalist who zips around the Roman world interviewing women found within the pages of the New Testament. Read her interviews on the website blog page.  https://leavingbethany.com/blog/