Close your eyes for a moment… (not too long, or you won’t be able to read this post!)
You’re me. You’re at work at the library. The automated materials handler (a.k.a. the book sorting machine) is humming and spitting books into different bins behind you; someone’s mom is reading aloud in the children’s area; coworkers in sweaters and cardigans answer the telephone at the help desk in a professional tone.
You just received the daily delivery from our sister library in Fairbanks… and opened the lid of one box full of brand new shiny books. If this didn’t already happen every week (and you didn’t have to wonder about little details like shelf space) you might expect some angelic music to fly out when that box opens. Or confetti. With sparkles!
Of course you’re only a little surprised when Land of Silence by Tessa Afshar makes its way out of the box– after all, your ARE the one who requested it for purchase…
Okay, you can stop being me now!
Land of Silence
By Tessa Afshar, ©2016
After reading Bread of Angels, (here’s the review if you missed it) I knew I wanted to sample more of her stories. Land of Silence brings to life the New Testament woman who touches the hem of Jesus’ garment and is healed after twelve years of suffering from a flow of blood. But this story of Elianna, as Afshar names her, starts long before she is afflicted with a physical disease. As a young woman, she suffers in more intangible ways when her only brother dies while in her care and her father closes himself off from her–unable to forgive her for the tragedy.
At the finish, I certainly enjoyed the book, but it didn’t live up to the expectations I had after reading Bread of Angels, which I rated five stars. In my mind, the theme of Elianna’s heartbreak and emptiness over the loss of a loving relationship with her father, culminating in her encounter with Christ–who calls her daughter– is the driving and moving force of the novel. However, the power of that message, for me, was a little watered down as the focus moves to distracting plot elements and characterization. A romantic arc gets a lot of spotlight, but then halts abruptly just before Elianna becomes diseased and her love interest moves on, only to be brought back about the same time she is healed. I don’t want to give away a big spoiler, but let’s just say it was quite… convenient that he is single and interested in marriage at that moment.
Also, perhaps I am too critical, but I caught one instance in both of Afshar’s books of a use of God’s name that struck me as taking it in vain… but I want to assume that Afshar meant for her characters to be saying what they did with intention/meaning. Without hearing someone’s tone of voice it’s hard to “read” the difference between someone making a flippant exclamation or a genuine call to God. I’m going down a rabbit trail now, but sometime I would like to write a separate post just to talk a little more about that and maybe hear your thoughts.
That said, Afshar’s descriptions are still as vivid as ever, and her insights encouraging and thoughtful. For example, let me share this excerpt of Elianna’s thoughts from Chapter 25, set shortly before she meets the Messiah:
More than a roof over my head, more than a healed body, I needed to have my soul restored. The Lord promised that this was possible. It was free. It was available. But I did not know how to obtain it. How did you go about finding wholeness and holiness when you were this unworthy? My flesh might have been unclean, but my heart was even more so.
I had no spiritual currency with which to come to God. I had no righteousness, no true depth of prayer, no great understanding of his Word. My sin was ever before me. Yet here was this incomprehensible promise: “He who has no money, come, buy.“
…Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters… Elianna is quoting from beautiful Isaiah 55:1.
Thanks for perusing my thoughts, and have a great week!