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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

AMERICA'S PROPHET: MOSES and the AMERICAN STORY by Bruce Feiler

 

Published in 2009 by William Morrow (HarperCollins)

I love the premise of America's Prophet - that America has a special connection with the story of Moses beginning with the Puritans and going right up through Martin Luther King, Jr. He lays out the correlations with some skill but, in the end it just started to drag.

This review (and the book, to a lesser extent) is helped by a basic knowledge of the story of Moses. Feiler provides the necessary background on Moses and then proceeds to make comparisons. For example, the Puritans saw themselves as fleeing a domineering power (England) and taking refuge in the wilderness (New England) like the Children of Israel fled the Pharaoh and went into the Sinai. The Puritans took comfort in the story of Moses because they believed that they would also be led by God.

Martin Luther King, Jr. during the
"March on Washington"
A slight change in interpretation and Moses becomes an inspiring symbol for the Americans in the Revolutionary War, the Abolitionist movement, the Underground Railroad, both sides in the Civil War, immigrants, the Cold War and the Civil Rights Movement (with the oddly prophetic "mountaintop" speech given by King right before he was murdered). Of course, there is a long discussion about Charlton Heston's portrayal of Moses in the movie The Ten Commandments. Oddly, there is only a very brief mention of Brigham Young leading the Mormons to Salt Lake City, fleeing from the United States in search of religious freedom. I am not a Mormon, but that story has every bit as much correlation to the original story as any of the others do.

Sadly, the story drags in in the later parts of the book with the discussions of post-Civil War immigrants and Charlton Heston. Feiler's attempt to wrap it all up with a discussion of his family's Passover celebrations is well-intentioned but really slow, capping off a solid book with an ending that never seems to end.

I rate this book 3 stars out of 5.
Reviewed on November 12, 2013.

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