Sandhills scene for a Da Vinci Code of its own
Shannon Baker (formerly Shannon Dyer of Hyannis, Neb.) has just published her first novel. It is a thriller about a woman veterinarian who seeks to find a cure for a bovine disease, but is unwittingly thrown into the world of international intrigue of apocalyptic proportions. A world between fanatic Zionists seeking to “force God’s hand,” using the veterinarian to genetically engineer a perfect red heifer and thereby fulfill an ancient Biblical prophecy, and Muslim extremists who want to prevent Israel’s goals.
When asked what inspired this former Sandhills resident to write such a wild ride of a tale, Baker answered that the inspiration originated from a piece in the New Yorker. “I read an article in the New Yorker about the Red Heifer prophecy and a rancher in Mississippi, Clyde Lott, who decided God called him to provide Israel with the sacred beast. I’ve always been fascinated by religion and what it drives people to do.”
The book blends Baker’s own experience of the Nebraska Sandhills and her many years of research on Jewish ritual and Biblical prophecy in a way that may strike home for western Nebraskans. The Red Heifer also propels the stark, serene landscape of the Sandhills to becoming an integral part of International terrorism – a timely topic and driving force in the news.
Baker explained, “I lived on a cattle ranch in the Nebraska Sandhills for many years so I know a bit about the environment, cattle, and the love people feel for the land. Since I’m not Jewish, I decided to write from the point of view of an outsider, like me. I visited synagogues, read many books and blogs and badgered Jewish friends endlessly. The topic interested me so much the problem wasn’t doing the research, as much as it was stopping the research and writing the story.”
The Red Heifer plays a significant role in the future of the Mid East. In fact, the Bible speaks of an entire ritual performed using the rare animal. Baker describes this ritual as dating back to the time of Moses, “Directives for the ritual were given to Moses by God in the Oral Tradition on Mount Sinai. It calls for the burning of a rare, perfect animal born in Israel, three years old, which has never been yoked or used for work. The ashes are mixed with special water and when someone is sprinkled with this solution, they are made pure. Only a person who is ritually clean can set foot in the Holy of Holies.” She continued, “No such animal has appeared in over 2000 years so even if Jews had the means to rebuild the Temple, something which has to happen for them to worship as God requires, they are forbidden to set foot on the site.”
According to the Bible, “Jesus was the last or tenth red heifer. When the Jews believe the Messiah has come, Christians believe it will be the anti-Christ and will herald in the End Times and they will be Raptured. So for these Christians, the advent of the red heifer is a good thing.”
It apparently is a good thing for Baker as well. Having written countless articles on lives of Sandhillers, life in the Sandhills and even being awarded a Guideposts writer’s workshop to go to New York, she has finally harnessed this story into a full-fledged nail biting, heart pounding thriller that will engage even the non-believers into seeing that aspects of current events that make life in the West part of Mid East crisis … and the world at large.
A true tour de force for a first-time novelist. The book is available at Amazon.com or go to read more about the Red Heifer rituals at the author’s website: Shannon-Baker.com
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