Biblical · Full Reviews

Full Review, In the Field of Grace

I really had no intention of reading another Tessa Afshar book so soon! Back in January I reviewed Land of Silence; besides that, I have an ever-growing pile of works by unknown (to me) authors begging to be given a little time. But In the Field of Grace popped up in the audio book section of the library, and I gave in. I haven’t had a good audio book in a while… I can listen with my phone using free services like Hoopla, but lately I’ve been struggling to keep my phone charged. For that reason alone I tend to prefer audio books on CD rather than digital format. Someday I’ll get around to buying a charging cable for my car…

In the Field of Grace, ©2014 by Tessa Afshar, Moody Publishers.

In the Field of Grace is a retelling of the story of Ruth (from the Biblical book of the same name) with imagined details filling in the areas of her life we don’t know from Scripture. Afshar conjectures what Ruth’s Moabite backstory may have been like; considers her daily life in Israel; explores her relationship with Naomi.

The difficulty in writing this book, in my mind, is that I think most Christian women have read and heard the Old Testament passage preached so many times that they have already imagined for themselves many of the unknown particulars of the account. Challenging those interpretations makes it difficult for them to feel as if this could be how it “really happened.”

Afshar does a wonderful job, as usual, of painting with words a vivid world, but somehow it felt disconnected from the Biblical account to me. Maybe it’s the aforementioned problem (though I tried to have an open mind.) Mostly, however, I thought the romance between Ruth and Boaz was exaggerated and modernized in a way that somewhat cheapened the known Biblical narrative (which I’m sure was not Afshar’s intent). By way of example, in this fictionalization Boaz is instantly enamored with Ruth’s beauty upon first sight. Her eyes, her height… I actually rolled my eyes when he notices her long slender fingers (which are covered in dirt from working in the fields all day but still manage to be alluring!) Despite Afshar’s efforts to show that Boaz is a Godly man of character, the over-romanticizing detracted from Boaz’s words of blessing a few minutes later. This is because it felt as if he only showed her kindness, in large part, because she was so attractive to him. Would the wealthy landowner have shown the same generosity if she had not been beautiful, or was just too dirty, tired, and gaunt for him to notice her lovely features? Something in my gut tells me the real Boaz would have.

Ruth’s life also takes on a more precarious nature . She is nearly killed by thieves; struck down with heat stroke in the fields; is burned and suffers from smoke inhalation after beating back a fire in Boaz’s field alone; and… well, I’d better stop before I give away crucial spoilers. I wouldn’t mind the suspense if I wasn’t left wondering if most of the excitement was set up just so Boaz would have a couple opportunities to carry Ruth home in his arms, trembling with concern and hidden ardor.

But wait! Despite some of the issues I take with the book, I really don’t mean this to be a scathing review. I’m rating this 3 stars–lower than Land of Silence or Bread of Angels–but I wouldn’t say it’s devoid of merit. In keeping with Afshar’s signature style, there are plenty of moments of spiritual reflection throughout the book that are thoughtful and encouraging, so if you’ve enjoyed her other titles you will find similar here. I also particularly liked Afshar’s rendering of Ruth’s background in Moab as well as her relationship with Naomi.

In closing, have you read any other books based on the life of Ruth? Also, what are your favorite verses from the Biblical account?

 

Biblical · Full Reviews

Full Review, Land of Silence

LandofSilence1

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… Continue reading “Full Review, Land of Silence”

Biblical · Full Reviews

Full Review, Take This Cup

 

The last jar remained to be opened. I plucked at the red wax seal and pried the lid off, welcoming the whoosh of ancient air. I peered in. This time there was no scroll, but a fleece wrapped package.

“Rabbi Kagba. It’s not like the others,” I said, some nervousness returning.

“Fetch it out, boy. My hand is too large.”

Reaching in elbow-deep, I grasped the prize and brought it into the light. Beneath thick wrapping, with smooth leather on the outside and fleece on the inside, I felt something the size and shape of a cup. Three strands of knotted leather bound the hide to it. On the exterior of the skin the label read, BEHOLD THE SILVER CUP OF JOSEPH, SON OF JACOB, PRINCE OF EGYPT.

Take This Cup
By Bodie and Brock Thoene
Zondervan, ©2014
Rating: 3/5 Stars

Continue reading “Full Review, Take This Cup”

Biblical · Full Reviews

Full Review, Counted With the Stars

Countedwithstars2
Counted With the Stars
Connilyn Cossette
Bethany House Publishers, ©2016

Had Yahweh been calling to me? Without words? Had he guided my steps to be among his people? To be set free from bondage and to follow him into the wilderness for some purpose I did not yet understand? Perhaps even the dream that had plagued me after the Nile turned red, when the gods themselves bled, was a message that Yahweh would destroy their power.

My heart contracted as I imagined the possibilities. Did Yahweh, the Almighty Creator, hear me? An Egyptian slave? Even though I had refused to surrender to him?

I dipped my toes back into the cool, rich waters of the Nile with another foray into the world of ancient Egypt! The biblical tale of Moses and the Exodus is lush with meaning to be gleaned about our Redeemer, so it’s not surprising to me that it has inspired more than one novel. Counted With the Stars is written from a fresh perspective; the protagonist is an Egyptian (rather than a Hebrew) fearful for herself and her people as the plagues unfold.

Kiya, the main character, grew up with riches but was sold into slavery when her family becomes unexpectedly destitute. She forms a close friendship with a fellow Hebrew slave, who tells her the stories of their people and Yahweh’s covenant with Abraham and his descendants (see Genesis 15.) Eventually Kiya flees Egypt with the Hebrews and must decide if she will surrender her life to the same God who decimated her homeland.

There were some issues; in my mind there was a strong disconnect between the first and second halves of the book. Excellent characters, who had been built up and fleshed out, disappear without a satisfying ending when Kiya leaves Egypt . New characters (particularly a villain) pop up out of nowhere and seem cliché by comparison. I also thought the romantic arc between Kiya and her Hebrew love interest was unrealistic and their dialog too contemporary. “Eben” spends most of the book glaring at Kiya and treating her with contempt and for some reason she continues to find him all the more appealing. Eben’s behavior is explained to be due to his father being murdered by Egyptians, but I still don’t understand Kiya’s attraction.

Cossette does an excellent job expounding on the plagues and miracles of God; I especially found her interpretation of the parting of the Red Sea interesting. She imagines the strong east wind God sends to divide the waters (Exodus 14:21) to be very cold, and it freezes the waters on each side of the dry ground into the walls on their right and left. One of my favorite things about Biblical fiction is how it has me constantly reaching for my Bible to reread passages; to me, Exodus 15:8, which speaks of the water being “gathered together…the depths congealed” doesn’t suggest icy walls, but I don’t think it is firmly exclusive of it. Cossette makes it very clear the parting is a miracle of God and not simply a natural phenomenon!

All in all, I think Counted With the Stars earned itself a solid 3/5 rating. Parting thought—are you tired of Biblical Christian fiction? Are there any genres you are really interested in seeing me review? I recently purchased a mystery, which is supposed to be like a Christian version of Agatha Christie. I also may be getting started on some speculative works. What do you want to see most? Suspense, legal, mystery, apocalyptic? Something else?

Appreciatively, Rebekah

Contemporary · Full Reviews

Full Review, Sutter’s Cross

But one child, looking up, saw farther and deeper and wider than the others. He saw the glittering bursts and showers but he saw fireflies too, and stars, all of them sparks of hope flung upward like prayers into the night. For in one quiet, unexpected moment, he had looked beyond the stars and caught a glimpse of God.

Sutter’s Cross
By W. Dale Cramer
Bethany Press, ©2003

Cravings usually go hand-in-hand with food, but as I was writing this review back in April I found myself craving something a little bigger: summertime. Summertime colors; the creek bubbling to life again; my porch-style swing—oh, how I missed reading and swaying on that swing on a hot day. Where I live it’s a long wait for summertime. Continue reading “Full Review, Sutter’s Cross”