The US Review of Books | Kugelach Stones for a Dagger

Title : Kugelach Stones for a Dagger
Language ‏ : ‎ English
Paperback ‏ : ‎ 362 pages
ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1662411936
ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1662411939
Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 8.8 ounces
Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 5.98 x 0.81 x 9.02 inches
book review by Mihir Shah

“He is despised and rejected by men, A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.”

Responding to Julius Caesar and the Romans’ decree that the entire Jewish community be present for the census, young Abijah and his family set off for Jericho with Zebedee, an elderly rabbi of Heron, and his donkey, Samuel. Using the journey as the context, this historical novel revolves around Abijah’s coming of age as he goes from the confines of maternal love to a cutthroat world that is survival of the fittest.

In one of the earliest haunting memories (for there are many), Abijah walks upon a harrowing scene of zealots being maimed with daggers and burned alive. In his mind, he is consumed by confusion. How could being a Jew who loved God have such dire consequences? As his journey progresses, Abijah’s narrative coincides with Jesus’ preaching of the gospel and the subsequent miracles he performs, such as healing leprosy. His introduction to Jesus of Nazareth comes from Hzak, another character that alerts him to the presence of the Messiah in Capernaum.

When Abijah first lays eyes on Jesus, it is in a crowded room amid a chaotic spectacle of fishermen, craftsmen, religious leaders, etc. Nevertheless, he is able to grasp Jesus’ radiant and calming demeanor while simultaneously reminiscing on the story of Jesus and John the Baptist, who was literally in tears upon encountering Jesus. When Abijah, who can juggle five stones at once, gets a dagger for his stones, a distinctive darkness overcomes him, one that is shrouded in pain and tragedy. Despite the relentlessness of his thievery, Abijah still believes in the words of an old man, Simeon, who has spoken about the coming of a Messiah. In this respect, he holds onto his innocence and faith while being caught in the midst of one storm after another. In retrospect, the dysfunctional relationship with his father is simply a prelude to the chaos that will fill Abijah’s life. Aside from his mother, Samuel the donkey is likely his truest confidant. Regardless, he is not devoid of humanity. On the contrary, when Abijah has a surprise encounter with Samuel, long after their journey together has culminated, he is unable to see Samuel being mistreated as a laboring donkey and purchases him back at a premium.

While a character that endures and exhibits such damning characteristics as Abijah is often antagonized mercilessly, Hamby has done a commendable job of creating a decidedly sympathetic one who, though flawed, is determined to meet the Messiah, provoking the question of how one can be imbued with light and positivity when all they have known their entire lives is darkness and tragedy. This connection with Abijah allows readers, especially those new to or unfamiliar with the Bible, to form an even stronger bond with the stories of Jesus as a means of healing. Overall, the text uses strong character development and a linear, easy-to-digest storyline to guide audiences of all ages through biblical stories and references while simultaneously keeping the microscope on Abijah, a character whose intrigue stems from his upbringing and the tragedy that seems to constantly unfold around him.

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