Click here to read reviewer Karyn Johnson's take on The Song of Hannah.
The Song of Hannah breathes to life the biblical story of Hannah, her husband, Elkanah, and his first wife, Pninah. Hannah, the mother of the prophet Samuel, starts out as a young, beautiful and literate woman living in Shaar Efraim. She has many suitors but is waiting for a special man.
Unfortunately, that special man turns out to be Elkanah, the husband of her best friend, Pninah. Pninah, who also passionately loves Elkanah, must settle for being treated as a cast-off who is only there to satisfy Elkanah's lust while Hannah becomes his favored wife, the wife he loves on a spiritual level.
Pninah sinks into a deep depression and only comes out of it after she meets a new man, a Canaanite. She begins a long-term affair with him that revitalizes her spirit and restores her beauty. Hannah discovers the affair but cannot bring herself to ruin life for her rival; she still harbors guilt over the pain she has caused Pninah.
As Pninah settles into family life with her multiple children, Hannah tries desperately to have a child. Finally, after visiting the Temple in Shiloh, she conceives and bears Samuel, whom she has promised to God.
Hannah takes Samuel back to the Temple to live while he is still a toddler. Samuel, who is destined for great things, begins to suffer visions. He sees the destruction of the Temple and wars with Canaan.
Over the years, Samuel's visions come to pass. Samuel himself grows into a man who is not only a prophet but a man with lusts, desires and dreams. He lusts after his father's wife, Pninah. Elkanah suspects this and is very angry, although he has never done anything but satisfy his urges with Pninah, Hannah and many of the maids from his fields.
In the end, Hannah has only loved one man. She is devastated when Elkanah succumbs to a stroke. Pninah, who loved Elkanah as much in her own way, is content to be by the side of her friend, finally giving up her affair and learning to enjoy the spiritual side of life with Samuel, who is now married to another.
Eva Etzioni-Halevy, a professor emeritus in Sociology at Bar-Ilan University in Israel, shows the very human side of biblical personages. The Song of a Hannah is a beautiful piece of fiction rich in detail and a true testament to the power of love, life and family. It acknowledges the frailty in us all without passing judgment or condemnation. A truly fantastic book!