Plot & Storyline Quality (3.5 points)
Mesu Andrews’ latest work and first novella, titled By the Waters of Babylon, is a captivating read that teaches the reader several important life lessons. Andrews’ stark commitment to Biblical accuracy drives the plot, and instead of leaving out the harsh truths of the era, she portrays them in the most palatable way possible. Merari is living a nightmare. She can no longer sell her hand-crafted harps in the marketplace, and because of this, she cannot buy enough food to nourish her young son and sister. Each day she returns from another fruitless effort to make money, only to be met by harsh words and insults from her sister. As she watches what her cousin Jeremiah prophesied come to life, she feels helpless to protect her son…and herself…from the horrors they face every day. Following a tragic set of events, Merari falls ill and slips into unconsciousness. When she awakes as the sole captive of a Scythian prince…she knows her life has changed forever. On the whole, this plot is masterfully done. Andrews handles this harsh topic tastefully and once again shows how God gives grace along with consequence. She seems to take a cue from pioneers such as Francine Rivers by combining gritty reality with the timeless message of God’s omniscience and unfailing love. For these reasons, Andrews earns a high score in this section.
Character Development (3.5 points)
Merari is the ideal female lead in a Biblical fiction plot because she is a great blend of relatable humanity and the potential we all have in Christ. Her personal struggles are very realistic, and her strengths are well-crafted because they develop through her decision to let God use her weaknesses. Idan is also a strong character because he is not portrayed as a straw-man pagan, but rather as a person equal to Merari and in need of God. Furthermore, the secondary characters are mostly effective. The only flaw to point out here is the presence of some unnecessary romance elements. The good in this novel outweighs the flaws, and because of this, Andrews earns an almost perfect score in character development.
Creativity & Originality (1 point)
Finally, this plot is very original and creative, earning Andrews a full point in creativity. I for one, was impressed with By the Waters of Babylon and highly recommend it to both those who love Biblical fiction. For these and other reasons, I think that this would make a great Bible film that could change the way Biblical films are viewed. The screenwriter would need to rewrite the romance a bit, but the wrinkles here can definitely be ironed out.
Wish List Rating: 8 out of 10 points