Ashes Like Bread

A Biblical Novel of Lamech and His Two Wives

Christian - Historical Fiction
369 Pages
Reviewed on 11/01/2018
Buy on Amazon

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Author Biography

Jean Hoefling is a freelance editor living in her native Colorado. She writes indie book reviews for Blue Ink Review and has published two books on the Orthodox Church (Regina Orthodox Press). She loves social dancing, fog, and church stuff.

"If there's a book you want to read and it hasn't been written yet, you must write it." This quote by author Toni Morrison was Jean's inspiration when she wrote her first novel, Gold in Havilah, and later Ashes Like Bread. She wanted to speculate on the characters and events revealed in the early chapters of Genesis, and explore how life might have been for those ancient people living in the vicinity of the legendary Garden of Eden. She had never read a fictional account about the bizarre polygamist Lamech and his two wives found in Genesis 4, and discovered much fodder for high-tension fiction in this simple story. Lamech, Zyla, and Adah make crazy, desperate choices, struggle with God, and long for love and recognition like all of us do.

Jean's books are about messing up your life and putting it back together with God's help, the overarching message of the Bible.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Romuald Dzemo for Readers' Favorite

Ashes Like Bread: A Biblical Novel of Lamech and His Two Wives by Jean Hoefling is an incredibly imagined Christian fiction tale with a strong anchor in ancient biblical times. A highly recommended rendering of the gift of prophecy and its perils. Set against the backdrop of ancient times, a period of religious intrigue and a time before the great flood, a powerful woman with the gift of seeing into the future is shunned by the elders of the clan. When Zyla prophesies about the impending flood and is exiled, she flees the mountain of Eden with her sister and settles among the descendants of Cain. What will she do to gain significance, to be respected, and where will she stand when the flood finally comes?

Lyrical, evocative, and filled with religious symbolism, Ashes Like Bread is a riveting read. It is told in a language that is atmospheric, rife with mystery and biblical references, deeply moving. The narrative is done in the compelling voice of Zyla and in the first person. It is light in tone, sometimes dark, highly descriptive with deep psychological and emotional levels. We meet Zyla, a character with sophisticated layers and, apart from the human and physical qualities she displays, she has an unfathomable spiritual depth. Even her name has something dark and mysterious about it: “The root of it was akin to an old word for the first shadow ever to fall over Eden on the day the forebears tasted forbidden food and were banished from that shimmering bower of delights.”

The atmospheric writing, the vivid setting, the deep spiritual underpinnings of the narrative and the exciting plot are among the qualities of the story that gripped me. You’ll fall in love with Zyla the moment you encounter her. Her voice will awaken your sense of curiosity and pull you in, holding you with its grace, and forcing you to stay connected with her until the very end of the narrative. The psychological as well as the physical levels of the conflict are well explored. This is a tale that both entertains and inspires; it transports readers into the ancient past and makes them witnesses to a spellbinding drama.

Maria Beltran

Ashes Like Bread: A Biblical Novel of Lamech and His Two Wives by Jean Hoefling is a Christian historical fiction novel that introduces us to the Sethite tribe. Zyla is the youngest daughter of beautiful Mual and Kenan, the youngest elder of the tribe. Named after an ancient word that pertains to the dark shadow that engulfs the world when their elders, Adam and Eve, ate the apple in Eden, Zyla discovered that she possessed the gift to see the future when she was still a little girl. Scorned by her village for her dark prophecies, she faces the dilemma of staking her life to save her loved ones or setting her hopes on an uncertain future without them.

Ashes Like Bread: A Biblical Novel of Lamech and His Two Wives by Jean Hoefling is a provocative fantasy novel that is based on the Bible, specifically the Old Testament. Jean Hoefling's creative writing style is vividly descriptive and beautifully appropriate to the story. Ashes Like Bread is a story of courage and love that will grip every reader's heart and mind. The plot develops slowly, languidly, and it is enriched by the author's language. As the pace goes faster, so do our heartbeats because, intriguing, Zyla's character is surprisingly relatable even to contemporary readers. And this is perhaps the unique reason why this is a book that'll leave an intellectually stimulating aftertaste long after we finish reading it. This story is a must-read for Christians and non-Christians alike!

Ray Simmons

I have been reading Bible stories since I was a kid. I’m pretty sure my mother used them to teach me to read. They always fascinated me, but the sheen wore off the older I got. So instead of reading the Bible itself, I started to read talented writers’ versions of these stories. Most have been so-so. Some have been good. None has been better than Ashes Like Bread by Jean Hoefling. I loved this story. It was magical…if that’s a proper term for a biblically based tale. Never have I caught the feel and atmosphere of what the Old Testament world must have been like as I did in this novel. It is a powerful experience to read Ashes Like Bread. I strongly suggest every Christian even remotely interested in those tales from Genesis, when the world was new, give himself or herself the treat of reading this book.

The thing that immediately caught my attention, the thing that signaled that I was in for something special was the voice of Zyla, and the other women of the tribe. I’ve never heard the women of the Bible voiced so confidently. In the Bible itself, the women are often an afterthought it would seem. The voices and characters in Ashes Like Bread are vivid. Many familiar characters from Genesis are there, but now I see them in a new light. Jean Hoefling paints them as humans living in a cruel world and waiting on a savior. The plot is good. The setting is perfect. This is a great story. There is nothing more tragic or common than a prophet that won’t be heard.

Maureen Dangarembizi

Ashes Like Bread by Jean Hoefling is a Christian fiction novel derived from the Hebrew scriptures, the books of Jasher and Genesis. The story is told by Zyla, a female descendant of Seth, Adam’s third son. Years have passed since the fall of Adam and his expulsion from Eden. Adam and his Sethite descendants live on the mountain, awaiting the coming of the Anointed One. Zyla leaves her home when her spirited younger sister, Adah, falls for a Cainite man called Lamech. Seduced by Lamech, the sisters find themselves in Enoch. Enoch is an apostate city under the control of fallen angels and lewd men. As both sisters realize that their husband is a dishonorable man, they take a dark journey to find themselves again. With a prophetic vision looming, Zyla must find a way up the mountain to redemption.

Jean Hoefling has managed to turn a few paragraphs of Lamech’s account into a fully-fledged story. Many people have wondered what was happening in the days before Noah’s flood and Ashes Like Bread delves deep into it. I loved that the author explored the imperfections in the Sethites versus their godless relatives below the mountain. Though they seem to be better than the Cainites, they still come with their own social issues. And out of the lost Cainites came a truly honorable man. This biblically themed story explores the gray area between good and evil. Though it can’t be taken as scripture, this book is relevant to people of today in that it forces the reader to take a good look at themselves.

Stephen Fisher

Ashes Like Bread by Jean Hoefling is a flawlessly written novel that begins with Zyla, a five-year-old girl with the gift of foresight. When Zyla goes into a trance-like state, she has a vision describing a river flood that will cover one third of the earth, as well as a warning to take precautions to prevent a pestilence attack on their crops. All the adult seers, and adults that live on the mountain with Adam, Eve, and the rest of the Sethites, ignore the rantings of a child that could not possibly be able to predict the future. After the death of her mother and younger sister, Zyla must help take care of her new born sister, Adah. When Adah grows into a beautiful young maiden, she runs away to meet her beloved to be married; Lamech of the blood line of Cain. Taking the long trek into the desert to where the Cainites dwell, Zyla grabs the fleeces that were used to cover Adam and Eve's nakedness when they were forced to leave the Garden of Eden as the dowry.

Jean Hoefling does an amazing job of bringing this story to life based on the facts from the book of Genesis. The author accurately describes in detail the different customs and rituals of taking wives. When Zyla reveals her gift of foresight, she is chosen to be the official seer and second wife as she and Adah vie for the affections of charming Lamech. I thoroughly enjoyed this book from beginning to end. Jean Hoefling was able to capture my attention from the beginning, keep it a willing prisoner to the end, and all points in between. Her characters were larger than life and so well developed. Ashes Like Bread is an awesome read. Well done!