Counted With the Stars (2016) by Connilyn Cossette is the first book in the Out From Egypt series. This novel comes in all forms including eBook, and is roughly 353 pages in length. With a full-time job and a five-year old at home, I was able to read this novel in two and half days. I give this novel 5 STARS. It is a Christian Biblical novel set during the time of the Hebrew Exodus from Egypt.
Here is the GoodReads blurb:
Sold into slavery by her father and forsaken by the man she was supposed to marry, young Egyptian Kiya must serve a mistress who takes pleasure in her humiliation. When terrifying plagues strike Egypt, Kiya is in the middle of it all.
To save her older brother and escape the bonds of slavery, Kiya flees with the Hebrews during the Great Exodus. She finds herself utterly dependent on a fearsome God she’s only just beginning to learn about, and in love with a man who despises her people. With everything she’s ever known swept away, will Kiya turn back toward Egypt or surrender her life and her future to Yahweh?
I want to begin by explaining how exceptionally well researched this novel is. In her Note from the Author, Ms. Cossette explains that she believes, “unapologetically, that the Word of God and its histories are true” (326). Most secular Egyptologists today accept the writings of a 3rd century Egyptian priest named Manetho to accurately illustrate the Exodus period. But, because they conflict with the Biblical account of the Exodus, Ms. Cossette explains that she held Manetho’s work suspect. Cossette goes on to say, “When anything conflicts with the Bible, I will always defer to the Word” (326). When an author is reluctant to use a source because it conflicts with the Bible, you know you have an author after God’s heart! For me, this makes all the difference when I come upon any Biblical novel. If you struggle with Biblical fiction because you worry it strays from God’s Word, fear not with this book.
This novel is told through a first-person narrative. I’m not typically a fan of that type of narration, but it really works in this novel. Kiya, the protagonist, is a genuine character; her reactions, inner dialogue, and behaviors all line up with a very well written, believable persona. Kiya, until 16, was raised in a very wealthy Egyptian home. Anything and everything was at her disposal. She had the best food, the latest clothing, the finest make-ups, and was betrothed to a handsome military man in Pharaoh’s army. But, Kiya’s father loses everything and sells his daughter into slavery in order to pay off his debts. The reader watches as Kiya suffers at the hands of Tekurah, Kiya’s new mistress. Tekurah hates Kiya, and everyone knows it.
In this period of enslavement, Kiya meets a Hebrew slave named Shira and they become friends. Shira, through her kindness, sacrifices, and stories, teaches Kiya about the Hebrew God, Yahweh. Also, during this period, Kiya and her fellow Egyptians are devastated by the Ten Plagues. One of the most fascinating things in this novel is seeing the Biblical story played out through the eyes of an Egyptian. The writing is SO well executed that when Kiya describes the plague of darkness I actually found myself feeling claustrophobic and noticed that my breathing became shallow. I laughed at myself when I realized I was doing this, but this moment made me think on that plague for a minute. Life without LIGHT, which is really life without GOD, would be terribly excruciating. It would make a person go crazy! I mean, imagine days with NO light of any kind. No fires, no lamp, no stars, no moon, NOTHING — just darkness. I once went on a cave tour when I was a kid. I thought I was going to lose it when the tour guide turned off the lights in the cave for five minutes. I couldn’t last five minutes without light! How could I have made it through the plague of darkness?
Experiencing each plague and the actual exodus with Kiya brought the Exodus story to life. It shames me to say, but I don’t think I have ever put myself into the Exodus story before. I’ve read Exodus many times, but never through the eyes of a Hebrew or of one of the “mixed multitudes.” If I am honest, I have really only read Exodus as a cool story I get through and then check it off as I do my daily Bible study. But this is the beauty of Biblical fiction: it forces you to interact with Biblical stories and the Bible with your eyes open! And, that is why I love reading these types of novels so much.
One more issue that this book brought to my attention was the confrontation with untruth. There is a terribly sad moment in the novel where Kiya breaks down and cries out her frustration to her gods. She asks, “Where were the gods?” (111). Then she lists the gods who hadn’t helped her people as she replays each plague that had already hit her country. She realizes that the Hebrew God, Yahweh, is attacking each Egyptian god. That these were pointed, powerful attacks. Then, and to me this is the saddest, she realizes she has no one to ask about this Hebrew God and these plagues. Shira is not available to Kiya at the moment because she had to flee to her own home (getting near the 10th plague at this point). This is sad to me because I think about the many, many people out in the world today who may question their current beliefs, who may want to talk to someone about God, but don’t have anyone to talk to about their questions, feelings, frustrations, and doubts. How many people could believe in the one-true God if only they had someone available to discuss Him with them? This is an excellent reminder for me as a Christian — I need to be more available and I need to pray more for all people regardless of what they believe because God made them all. Again, shamefully, I admit that my prayers focus more on me and my immediate circle, and I tend to never really leave my safe comfort zone of communication.
If you are looking for an excellent Biblical novel that is well written and well researched, then I highly recommend Counted With the Stars. This novel is fast paced, engaging, and thought-provoking. You will not be disappointed with this book.