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Dennis Wammack
The Patriarch and the Lord

Adult; General Fiction (including literary and historical); (Market)

In the final book of The Beginning of Civilization: Mythologies Told True, the mythologies of ‘Pharaoh Djoser and Queen Hetephe, Isis and Osiris, Set and Horus, the Lady of Byblos, Abraham and Sarai and Hathor, Yahweh and Asherah, Moses and his Lord all intertwine to provide origination stories for the Sphinx, the Ark of the Covenant, misogyny, the evolution of the gods of Canaan, the emergence of Mecca and the Ishmalites, plus, the nature of death and God are posited. These multiple secondary stories are woven together by the story of Horus. Horus, son of Isis and Osiris, teaches all people how to live good lives while he fights to eliminate the misogynous teachings of the Church of Urfa and searches for the Land of the Dead. He takes Abram and Baalat, a boy and a girl from the city of Urfa, to become his students and teach them to become ‘weapons of war’ against the masters of the Church of Urfa -- the Kyrios-Olon, who are the intelligent heirs to the Olympian gods of old. Kyrios-Olon member, Nimrod, sends an operative to seduce Horus’s wife and bringer of his only peace, Serket, in order to gain control over Horus. Her seduction drives Horus deeper into an already tortured existence. (In the previous book, Horus’s uncle Set publicly cuckolded him with the now-powerful Anath.) Horus eventually painfully abandons Serket in order to influence his ongoing war with the Church. The ongoing jealousy of Set, now extremely powerful and High Priest of the Church of Urfa, comes to its conclusion as Horus is forced to acknowledge Set as the better man when, upon his deathbed, Set reveals the nature of the Land of the Dead and the nature of God to Horus. This knowledge creates an existential crisis for Horus and what to do with this knowledge drives a deep wedge between Horus and Azazil, his long-time chief disciple. Their crisis comes in the city of Meccah ..<...> He is told to visit Serket's home city of Rusalem, where Serket would probably join him. He does and long-dead Serket comes to him.
This surprising, impassioned novel—the sixth volume of Wammack’s sweeping The Beginning of Civilization: Mythologies Told True series—stands as the culmination of a singular project. The series imagines and dramatizes the lives, hearts, and minds of the leaders, thinkers, rulers, and believers populating the ancient histories attributed to Plato, Hesiod, Moses, and a host of Egyptian priests. Wammack does this in crisp, inviting language, touched with poetry but stripped of ornamentation: “Baalat spread a blanket for them to sit on and drink wine. She was happy, confident, outgoing, and awash with the joy of living. The men—not so much.”

That passage suggests the tenor of the series, which traces the development of myth into systems of belief often wielded as power, while emphasizing the humanity of all involved—pious readers starting with this entry will quickly be jolted by Wammack’s matter-of-fact treatment of sex, virginity, and pleasure, an approach more in line with the Song of Solomon than later primness. The women here have welcome agency: Fatimah boldly pledges to Ishmael to please him “with desert-heated love”; Baalat urges Horus to add “Respect Women” to his teachings; and a scene of Sarai and Hagar joining forces and applying oils to inspire Abram to sire a son is strange and funny.)

Dialogue often drives the overlapping, intergenerational stories as this entry surveys nothing less than the dawning of the Abrahamic religions during the age of pharaohs and Phoenicians, plus the building of desert cities, the Ark of the Covenant, and many other wonders, ideas, and beliefs. The talk is direct and plainspoken, sometimes earthy, and—like the rest of this sui generis novel—brisk and unpredictable. “Well, I don’t think it’s proper!” Abram tells his wife, Keturah, when discussing the possibility of women “teaching about the nature of God.” He adds: “It makes women think they are as good as men!” Wammack’s reimagining of foundational stories stand out by never indulging in hero worship.

Takeaway: Surprising, earthy reimagining of the dawn of the Abrahamic religions

Comparable Titles: Charlotte Gordo’s Abraham’s Dilemma, Joseph Blenkinsopp’s Abraham: The Story of a Life.

Production grades
Cover: C
Design and typography: B
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: B