The Gifts of Man. S. M. McElligott. Create Space Independent Publishing Platform. August 2016. 448 pp. ISBN#: 9781534732179.
We must follow the star! Melchior, Gaspar and Balthazar, known as the three wise men of Biblical fame, received individual messages in their dreams that added to the astrological knowledge. They came from areas of the Middle East where following Judaism was more of a liability than a blessing. The Empire of Partha and a war-torn area of what is now Yemen were places where kings vied with each other for power but were helpless against the power of King Herod, himself supported by Roman domination.
The author imagines the lives of these three men in their day-to-day existence. One finally gets the approval he needs from his King to be an ambassador to find this new “King” only after a plague decimates his city and Gaspar survives that same disease. One acquires a female traveling companion who entire family has been murdered by marauding bandits common throughout the Middle East. They find intense hate, suspicion and love during their long journey. A visit to King Herod to tell him of their great news produces an ambiguous response but the flattery that follows is the precursor to dire warnings.
So many lush and sparse descriptions follow of traveling through cities and deserts that the reader is drawn into thinking and feeling part of their journey. The climax of this journey, not surprisingly, is when they finally meet the newborn child whom they all believe is to be the Messiah. Their gifts of frankincense, myrrh and gold, while the most precious of offerings, seem minor beside their joy at seeing and holding this blessed babe. Gaspar receives an unexpected but life-saving healing from being in the presence of the long-awaited Savior by Jews throughout the world. Differences are ironed out and marriages follow. Later on after they have returned to their native land, they hear of the life of Jesus, the Messiah, from Thomas, one of the famous apostles. The three wise men, however, know that their lives were totally transformed by their journey and their brief meeting with the true gift to man.
This novel is obviously very well-researched and beautifully crafted, so much so that this reviewer was sorry when it ended. A glossary and maps are added to enhance the reader’s experience. Ms. McElligott is a very talented writer whose novel will be a gift to those who read it. Highly recommended historical and Biblical historical fiction!