Nehemiah is the cup bearer to the king of Persia, but he is heartbroken that his people live in a city of broken-down walls. When he receives permission from the throne to rebuild the capital city of Jerusalem, he returns to his homeland he finds opposition waiting for him. Will he survive long enough to complete his God-given task?
As a history major, it shouldn’t be a surprise that I love historical fiction. I also love the Bible. When those two things intersect, it is too much for me to resist. I thoroughly enjoy reading historical events while being entertained. Lynn Austin’s On This Foundation does not disappoint as she retells the story of Nehemiah and his quest to rebuild Jerusalem’s walls.
The setting of On This Foundation takes place during the Persian Empire when the Israelite exiles return to their homeland to find their capital city in ruins. To the author’s credit, the story shows incredible attention to historic detail and biblical accuracy, but the plot is not overburdened by it. The vivid descriptions and cultural detail allow the reader to be immersed in the story from page one.
The dialogue is entertaining and seems natural and plausible. It is used effectively to highlight the differences in culture and class as well as reveal the characters’ motivations without revealing too much or seeking to inform the reader. The conversations portray the characters as genuine, sympathetic, and complex.
The plot and the pace of On This Foundation are driven by circumstances, which lead to conflicting feelings and inner desires within the characters, and also drive the action of the story. There is some suspense in the storyline, but most of the drama is due to several intriguing vignettes in the novel.
The conflict in the plot is driven by external events. The closer Nehemiah gets to his goal, the greater the difficulties for him and the people he leads. The characters’ struggles are constant, which only heighten the reader’s interest. The romantic angle, which is often overplayed in Christian fiction, is useful in heightening the tension without drowning the entire plot. There are a few unexpected twists and turns which only add to the well-written narrative.
Although the story is biblical, the reader does not have to wade through large portions of Scripture or preachy text. There are short Bible verses which, more often than not, are used as prayers, and lend to the authentic feel throughout the book. Austin did not take many liberties and should be commended for her adherence to Scripture. The spiritual message is communicated extremely effectively, and the truths imparted are tender, deep, and lasting.
On This Foundation has two main weaknesses. One is a small portion toward the end of the book where the biblical feasts are explained. The exposition may be important, but it feels rushed and fails to blend into the narrative and move the story forward.
The second weakness is the flat ending. The plot stalls before the book is finished. In addition, there is a main conflict that remains unresolved.
On This Foundation has no objectionable material and is geared to a Christian audience. Women will find it especially appealing, but all readers who like biblical and historical fiction may also enjoy it.
On This Foundation is a stand-alone novel, but it is the third and final installment of Lynn Austin’s Restoration Chronicles.
Apart from dense information which slows down the narrative and a flat ending, On This Foundation is an engaging and entertaining read.
I was given a free copy from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.