'The army makes a man hard sometimes. I remember a young girl no more than ten who gave me a glass of buttermilk just outside of Chancellorsville. I still remember that. I guess that's all my life is. Some pictures fading out behind me, and there's not much before me.' Reisa listened as he spoke. She knew that he was a man who longed for goodness, and longed for friends, and perhaps even a wife and family. Finally she said, 'I hope you find your way, Ben. God is real, and love is real.' Fleeing a bloody pogrom that threatens their tiny Russian village, Reisa Dimitri and her grandfather, Jacob, sail the ocean to a new life in America. They are swiftly embraced by New York's Jewish community. But God has other plans that will call them far from the familiar warmth and ways of their culture. Accompanied by their huge, gentle friend, Dov, Reisa and Jacob set out to make their living as traveling merchants in the post-Civil-War South. There, as new and unexpected friendships unfold, the aged Jacob searches for answers concerning the nature of the Messiah he has spent a lifetime looking and longing for. And there, the beautiful Reisa finds herself strangely drawn to Ben Driver---a man with a checkered past, a painful present, and a deadly enemy who will stop at nothing to destroy him. Fast-paced and tender by turn, Jacob's Way is a heartwarming novel about human love, divine faithfulness, and the restoration of things that had seemed broken beyond repair.
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Gilbert Morris is one of today's best-known Christian novelists, specializing in historical fiction. His best-selling works include Edge of Honor (winner of a Christy Award in 2001), Jacob's Way, The Spider Catcher, the House of Winslow series, the Appomattox series, and The Wakefield Saga. He lives in Gulf Shores, Alabama with his wife, Johnnie.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Reisa Dimitri always slept soundly through the latter part of the night and on into the morning, but a sudden loud thumping noise very close to her head brought her awake instantly. Confused and frightened, she sat up in her narrow bed and stared wildly around the room, trying to pull her thoughts together. She knew that it was morning, for a pale milky light filtered through the single window of the room. As the biting cold struck her, she shivered, pulling the covers up to her neck, afraid to lie down again. It could be robbers! The thought brought her completely awake, and she swung her feet over the bed, slipping them into the bulky leather boots that she kept beside her cot. Standing up she listened hard, but only silence came echoing back to her. Drawing a deep sigh of relief, she murmured, 'It's not robbers---and I don't think it's soldiers.' The thought of soldiers was even more disturbing to Reisa. After all, robbers would only come in and take your possessions---but soldiers of the czar would seize people and carry them away to some frightful place where they would never be seen again. Such a thought always lurked deep down in Reisa's subconscious. She had heard terrible stories from her grandfather about the pogrom that he had survived in his youth. The Russian government had sent cruel cossacks through villages, killing Jews, slaughtering them like cattle, then taking the survivors away to prison camps where they died lingering deaths. Waiting silently in the room, Reisa became calmer. Not robbers and not soldiers. Soldiers would have broken the door down, and robbers would have tried to be silent. But I know I heard something. Standing up with a swift motion, she pulled a heavy overcoat over her thick woolen gown, buttoning the two buttons with numbed fingers. She plucked a white scarf from a peg, then moved quickly across the small room as silently as possible. She was alone, her grandfather spending a rare night away from home sitting up with an old friend whose wife was dying. Somehow the isolation had not troubled Reisa while it was light, but now the mysterious thumping sound worried her. Unbolting the latch, she stepped outside. The cold pierced her to the bone, for though there had been no fire in the house, it had retained some heat. Outside, however, the frigid atmosphere touched her face with ghostly fingers cold as death. Blinking her eyes against the fine particles of frozen mist, Reisa scanned the area outside the house, but saw nothing. Then remembering that the sound had been close to her head, she walked around the corner. There on the ground lay a bundle of some sort. As Reisa approached, she realized that it was the body of a large goose. Drawing her breath in, she ran at once and knelt beside it. The bird had been injured somehow. Strong compassion swept through Reisa. She loved animals almost fiercely, and indeed her grandfather, Jacob, had scolded her for bringing home crippled animals and birds half-mangled to death by cats. Yet she knew that this side of her character pleased her grandfather. She leaned closer and rolled the goose over. Seeing an empty eye socket and the breast terribly scarred and denuded of all except the finest feathers, she cried out, 'Poor bird! You were left behind, weren't you? Some hunter shot you, and you couldn't leave with the rest of the flock. How terrible to be left alone to face winter when your fellows were all flying away!' Her fingers touched the bird's injured wing, and she leaned forward to look more closely. The goose gave a convulsive lunge and uttered a hoarse sound. Reisa jerked her hand back, afraid of the large bird's beak. The goose gave a shudder and seemed to grow still. She knelt there undecided. What should she do with such a large bird? Often she had tended sparrows and other small birds, keeping them until they were able to fly. But what could she do with this battered creature? As she knelt there weighing the alternatives, the goose opened his beak and uttered a small sound. Somehow this brought a firmness to Reisa. Carefully she lifted the bird in her arms, then made her way to the small barn occupied by her flock of chickens, two goats, and the milk cow. Lifting the latch was difficult for her, but she managed, and as she stepped inside the usual greetings from the chickens rose as they gathered around her feet. Ignoring their cluckings as well as the nudgings from the goats, she placed the half-dead goose in a manger filled with hay. The long neck flopped over, but the good eye was fixed on her. 'I'll be right back,' Reisa whispered, then turned and left the barn. Going into the house, she quickly built up a fire, then drew on two petticoats and a brown woolen dress. As soon as the fire was hot enough she put on a kettle, then waited as the flames licked the vessel. Finally a breath of steam appeared, and she at once poured boiling water into a small saucepan. Moving quickly, she grabbed a worn towel, plucked up the lantern, and left the house. As soon as she stepped inside the barn, she hung the lantern on a peg, then opened a wooden box fastened to the wall. With her hand she scooped up some of the oats and dropped them into the hot water. The cold was so severe that the boiling water was already only warm. Moving to the goose, she began stroking him with the towel, intent on her task. She had seen flocks of this sort high in the sky, and twice a neighbor who hunted had brought her grandfather birds he'd killed as payment for a debt. Reisa had dressed and baked the birds, and even as she removed the icy scales from the goose, she thought, Grandfather would expect to eat this goose. The thought troubled her, for survival was not easy in such hard times. If the goose died, she would certainly give thanks for God's provision, and it would become food for them. Yet somehow Reisa hoped that he would not. Broken and dying, the great goose had come into her life, and now as she dried him she hoped that he would live. She was aware that most of her neighbors would laugh at such a foolish wish. 'Geese are made by the Eternal One for people to eat,' they would say. Reisa knew they were right, and it certainly gave her no problem to behead one of the chickens from her small flock. Yet somehow this goose was different. 'Ruler of the Universe,' she whispered, 'this poor fellow is crippled and half-blind. He is lost from all his kind and has no help but me. You brought him into my life, and now I would see him well and able to continue his journey to join his flock. I am a foolish girl, but I ask you to give him strength to complete his journey south...'
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