Saturday, November 1, 2008

Abinadi by H. B. Moore


by H. B. Moore
Covenant November 2008

Review by Anne Bradshaw

Heather B. Moore has written another winner. Her latest novel, Abinadi, is not only compelling reading from page one, but is also packed with excellent details of how life really was in those Book of Mormon days. Heather’s skills as a writer bring flavors of Eastern romance into an inspirational and edifying story.

Although the Book of Mormon’s account of Abinadi’s life (and encounter with Alma, the one person who listened to his message) is brief, Heather manages to fill in the gaps surrounding these important events with some intense adventure, and satisfying, though often traumatic, family details. Every character is finely drawn, believable, and unforgettable—including the wicked King Noah.

I highly recommend Abinadi as an engrossing read guaranteed to hover in the memory for a long time after the last page is turned. I feel like I’ve been to the ancient Americas, and absorbed the scent, scenes and sounds of historic events—an experience I thoroughly enjoyed.

I asked Heather some questions about her writing to which she graciously responded. Her answers are below.

What made you choose Abinadi and Alma as subjects for your book?

I wanted to start planning a new series and was looking for a good place in the Book of Mormon that would be conducive to 3-4 historical volumes. Abinadi, Alma the Elder, and Alma the Younger all live in the same century. I actually wrote the first chapter for Abinadi in 2006. I think I was mainly interested in what would make a man, a prophet no less, walk into a situation where he’d undoubtedly be executed. As I started reading a little about him, I found several articles that typified Abinadi as a precursor of Christ—their lives had many similarities. Then I started thinking of how I’d create an entire story around it (the fiction side of things), and that’s when I started to question how old Abinadi might really be.

I asked my father (S. Kent Brown) if there was any scripture or scholarly information on Abinadi’s age. He said that no one knows his age and there is no scriptural indication of his age—although traditional LDS art depicts him as an aged man. The open-ended age question hooked me right there, and I decided to make Abinadi a young man—a man who has to give up not only his life, but a wife and a young family. Then of course Alma naturally came into the story because he was one of the high priests in King Noah’s court who heard Abinadi’s message—and believed.

As I began to write full force on Abinadi, Alma really became more of a main character than I intended him to be. I found myself trying to reel in Alma’s character so that we could still hear Abinadi’s story.

Are you planning on more books about Book of Mormon characters?

Abinadi is the first in a series that will cover several Book of Mormon prophets. The publisher didn’t give this “series” a series title, but the books will definitely follow one after another. Although in the opening chapters, I’m careful to “catch the reader up” just in case the reader didn’t read one of the previous books. There will also be a character chart in the volumes after Abinadi. So to really answer the question, yes, I recently finished writing book two in this series—Alma the Elder—and will turn it into the publisher before Thanksgiving (2008). The third book will be about Alma the Younger. Then a fourth book will most likely be about Helaman.

Where did you get all your inside information about life in Abinadi's day?

I have rows of books in my office—ones that I’ve purchased or borrowed. I used to get them at the library, then realized I needed them more than just three weeks. Even one year isn’t enough. Hence, the purchase cycle. I have books by John L. Sorenson on the Book of Mormon peoples in Ancient America, books by Joseph Allen about the sacred sites, and books on the Maya culture.

I also read doctrinal books on the specific Book of Mormon passages that I’m covering, written by authors such as McConkie and Nibley. Book of Mormon art has also been helpful—since most artists do plenty of research on appearances, characteristics, and clothing of the era. I also do a lot of internet searching to find tidbits about Mayan clothing, food preparation, medicinal practices, marriage traditions, crop patterns, etc. The Journal of Book of Mormon Studies has also been very useful (produced by F.A.R.M.S, now the Neal A. Maxwell Institute). I’m constantly pouring over the newest insights published by Book of Mormon and Mesoamerican scholars.

Have you actually visited the places in your book, and if so when and why?

I’ve lived in the Middle East, so I had that advantage when writing the Out of Jerusalem series. But as we know, Lehi’s family arrives at the promised land—which is somewhere on the coast of Guatemala or El Salvador. So, specific to Abinadi, I haven’t been to Guatemala. I do have readers who edit my book before going to the publisher who have been to Guatemala. And those documentary films come in real handy when working on description.

Did you base Abinadi's character on anyone you know?

This is a hard question, because Abinadi is unlike anyone that I know. Yet, he has parts of many people that I know. When I set out to characterize him, I wanted him to be hard-working, yet not the complaining type. I wanted him to have some insecurities—asking himself, “Why me?” “Why did the Lord ask Me to do it?”

We all know those people who would rather be the secretary of something than the president of something. That’s Abinadi. He’s content with farming and caring for his aged mother. And only when he is “forced” out of the city, does he flee. In that way, I could compare him to Nephi or any other person of faith. A person who has tremendous perseverance. I purposely gave him what I call “light characterization.” This is because I wanted him to not be shackled with regret over this or that. I wanted him to be simple in the sense that he is not touched by the world as so many are. He not concerned with station or wealth. He sees life in whites and blacks. When he hears the Lord’s voice, he doesn’t doubt the Lord’s will or power, but he only wonders why he was the chosen one.

And it’s because of this very plain, simple, and even child-like faith, that Abinadi is willing to walk himself like lamb to the slaughter. I also wanted him to love and love deeply. Be it his mother, his brother, his wife, his son, or the Lord. I’m sure we can all think of people we know who have these attributes. Now, if you ask me about Alma, that’s a whole other story.

Now, that's too tantalizing to ignore. So how did you come up with Alma's character. Is he based on someone you know?

I guess I asked for it, didn’t I? By a whole other story, I mean Alma is quite different from Abinadi. There are some people who have a tough childhood and use it as a crutch the rest of their lives, where others—with a similar tough childhood—go out and change the world. Alma is the former, but makes an incredible transformation by the end of the book. I’d say that Alma is based after a man who’s had several difficult trials in life, and as a consequence, turned to the wrong sources in order to cope. Years later he makes a sincere turnaround.

I’ll be interested in hearing readers’ feedback on Alma’s character because I had some mixed responses during the editing process. I wanted him to sink to the very depths of sin and despair, and some have been uncomfortable with that. But in my mind, the Atonement is there for everyone, no matter what the transgression. I wanted this to be available to Alma. He is one of those guys with a chip on his shoulder and when the good-life is offered to him, he dives in head first. There’s some trepidation on his part in the beginning, but it’s easily dismissed when power and wealth is presented to him.

Dwelling at the very bottom enables Alma to truly rise to the top, with all the gratitude and devotion befitting a man who genuinely repents and tastes the sweet fruit of the Atonement.

How do your children feel about having a successful author for their mom?

Hey, that “successful” word sounds nice. The reaction from my children varies. My oldest (14-year-old boy) listened to the audio version of Out of Jerusalem last year. He came to me the first night after listening to a couple of chapters and said, “Mom, did you really write that book? Or did someone else?” He loved that series and has listened to them twice.

Now, my 11-year-old daughter won’t touch the books or the audios. She’ll sit in her room hour after hour listening to The 13th Reality or Far World, but nothing to do with Nephi.

A few weeks ago she asked why people don’t follow me around. I said, “What do you mean?” “Well, because you’re like a famous author.” I told her, “I’m not that famous.” If someone calls the house, and I’m gone to a book signing, my eight-year old daughter will tell them that I’m at a book signing because I’m so famous. We have to monitor when she answers the phone now. And my four-year old just knows that mom “works” in her office. Her favorite book is Brown Bear, Brown Bear.


Anonymous said...

I found a Wonderful site on Isaiah!
The site has free lessons on every chapter.
Very well done and in the author’s own voice.
Every Isaiah Chapter has the Analytical Commentary of Isaiah. Enjoy this personable verse-by-verse commentary of Isaiah by well-known Hebrew scholar Avraham Gileadi.

“Dr. Gileadi is the only LDS scholar I know of who is thoroughly competent to teach the words of Isaiah”—Professor Hugh Nibley, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah. (1. 6. 2003)

“It is my testimony that this man has been brought forward and trained at this time to help those inside the Church into Isaiah, and those outside the Church, Jew and Gentile, through Isaiah into the Church” —Arthur Henry King, author, former BYU professor and London
Temple President.

“Dr. Gileadi has achieved a major breakthrough in the investigation of a book of such complexity and importance as the Book of Isaiah”—Professor David Noel Freedman, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan.

“Dr. Gileadi’s work will render obsolete almost all the speculations of Isaiah scholars over the last one hundred years . . . enabling scholarship to proceed along an entirely new line . . . opening new avenues of approach for others to follow”—Professor Roland K. Harrison, Wycliffe College, Toronto, Canada.

“Only one who is truly at home not only with the Hebrew but with the ancient manner of biblical thought could have produced such an insightful and ground-breaking book”—Professor S. Douglas Waterhouse, Andrews University, Berrien Springs, Michigan.

“Avraham Gileadi’s unsealing of the Book of Isaiah will forever change people’s
understanding of Judeo-Christian religion, lifting it to heights hitherto known only to prophets and saints”—Arie Noot, corporate executive, Edmond, Oklahoma.

“Isaiah Decoded is a huge breakthrough for the seeker of truth—Jew, Christian, Moslem, and agnostic. From an ancient writing, Gileadi has brought to light eternal truths about the nature of God and our relationship to him that have lain buried for centuries in the dust of time”—Guy Wins, fifth-generation Jewish diamond dealer from Antwerp, Belgium.

“Gileadi is the only scholar I know who has been able to express the Jewish expectation of the Messiah in relation to the life and mission of Jesus of Nazareth”—Daniel Rona, Israeli tour guide, Jerusalem, Israel.

“Dr. Gileadi has clearly demonstrated his mastery of the Book of Isaiah and of the scholarly literature dealing with it”—Professor Ronald Youngblood, Bethel Theological Seminary, San Diego, California.

“Avraham Gileadi’s books and tapes take the casual observer of Isaiah’s words and transform him into an enlightened and lifelong student of the Word of God”—Allan and Nancy Pratt, LDS mission president, Toulouse, France.

“Dr. Gileadi has awakened a whole new depth of my understanding of Isaiah’s prophetic message. His books and tapes illuminate the urgent relevance of Isaiah’s writings to our own day”—Becky Douglas, supervisor and sponsor of three orphanages in India, Atlanta, Georgia.

“Dr. Gileadi’s translation [of the Book of Isaiah] is clear and smooth, allowing the reader to appreciate the power and beauty of Isaiah as conveyed in the Hebrew original”—Professor Herbert M. Wolf, Wheaton College, Wheaton, Illinois.

“Gileadi has uncovered an amazing message written in a divine code by the prophet–poet Isaiah. This will give comfort, hope, and joy to masses of people as they cope with the perplexing events now unfolding before their eyes”—Fenton Tobler, thirty years elementary school principle, Las Vegas, Nevada.

jenheadjen said...

I just finished this book a few weeks ago, and found it was one of the freshest books ever! Heather brings this Book of Mormon story to life. How she took me back in time is her secret to tell. I will surely never forget the journey, nor read the account of Abinadi in the BOM the same! What a gift - thank you for sharing your insight on the story with some added fiction! I absolutely loved it. :)

Heather B. Moore said...


Thanks for letting me know you enjoyed Abinadi!

David Walker said...

"My oldest (14-year-old boy) listened to the audio version of Out of Jerusalem last year. He came to me the first night after listening to a couple of chapters and said, “Mom, did you really write that book? Or did someone else?” He loved that series and has listened to them twice."

This made me smile. I know Heather wrote it, but as the narrator, I always feel awesome when someone enjoys my work. :-)

Heather B. Moore said...

I think having David Walker read the story makes it sound much more exciting!