Nehemiah in Jordan's book had left his hometown of Shibboleth, Alabama to work as an aide to a senator in Washington, D.C.
In the biblical account Nehemiah is saddened when he receives news of the Jews who remained in Jerusalem and were not in exile. The wall of " Jerusalem is broken down and the gates destroyed by fire." The king noted that his cupbearer is overwhelmed with sorrow and asks why? He asks the cause and Nehemiah tells him and also requests leave to go to the city and help with the rebuilding.
In the book Nehemiah is approached by his older brother Billy and Trice, a high school girlfriend , informing him that something or someone is sniffing out the life of Shibboleth and only he can help save the town.
The biblical Nehemiah, in consort with Ezra and the people, rebuilds the wall and turns the people back to the path of obedience to God.
With his work done he returns to Persia, but at a later date he returns to Jerusalem because the people are backsliding.
River Jordan follows the biblical story. Shibboleth is fading away-- losing its light. The people no longer are aware of their purpose. Perhaps this is an allegory where light is covered over by darkness.
There's a regional feel to the story and not because it takes place in the south, but because the theme is typical of that region where the bible holds more of a hold on the imagination. What is at stake in this well- told story is of great importance. People in Shibboleth forgot what is real and either were lulled into a somnolent state or went after false idols.
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