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, 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”

Allegory · Full Reviews

Full Review, Hinds’ Feet on High Places

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Hinds Feet on High Places
by Hannah Hurnard
Tyndale Publishers

I gave you a sneak peek of Hinds’ Feet on High Places a few weeks ago (you can find that here). In case you missed that post, Hinds’ Feet is an allegory detailing the journey of little “Much-Afraid”, a crippled and disfigured young woman following the Shepherd up to the High Places. In my interpretation, the High Places do not represent Heaven and the end of earthly life, but rather the reaching of a deep spiritual relationship with God which continues to grow. Continue reading “Full Review, Hinds’ Feet on High Places”

Suspense · Thriller

Full Review, Centralia

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“Centralia.” He said it out loud, hoping the auditory stimulation would trigger something, anything. But it didn’t. It was just a word, nothing more than a string of letters, a compilation of sounds.

Again tears came to his eyes, and he brushed them away. Regardless of whether he knew what the note meant, this was the proof he’d been looking for. Lilly was alive. And her note said they’d both gone together. If Lilly was alive, he had every reason to believe Karen was too.

He had to find them. He had to figure out what Centralia was and what he was supposed to remember.

Centralia
by Mike Dellosso, ©2015
Tyndale House Publishers

Centralia holds a special place today because it is the first suspense/thriller I have reviewed on the blog. This book is also the first one I finished from the Tyndale book haul I shared a while back. It’s also the first book since Sutter’s Cross by a male author. So, is it worth all those firsts?

Centralia is the story of Peter Ryan, who wakes up one morning looking for his wife and daughter only to discover that they both died in a car accident he doesn’t remember. As the back cover puts it, “Haunted by faint memories and flashes of details, Peter becomes convinced that something isn’t right and begins to question reality.” Peter goes on the run to try to find his family –if he even still has one. But confusing memories aren’t the only thing haunting him; hit men follow him every step of the way and Peter can’t afford to make any mistakes.

While this isn’t the kind of story I typically read, I really enjoyed it. One thing author Mike Dellosso did right is including the strong family element. In a book full of shootouts, close calls, car chases, and questions, Peter Ryan’s need to find his wife and daughter kept things grounded and meaningful. On another level, Peter also begins to remember a relationship with God he didn’t know he had, buried somewhere in his confusing and jumbled past.

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Between trying to figure out which memories are real, (was he a mild-mannered scientist? An army ranger with a medal of honor? A divorcee or happily married?) I should warn you that a lot of people die. I lost count after fifteen (mostly nameless assassins after Peter) people expired, so this book might not be for you or for younger people. I did appreciate that Dellosso included this section dealing with Peter’s grief over the lives lost as he’s tried to escape:

…But in the aftermath, looking at the collection of casualties in the parking lot, he wondered who these men were when they weren’t being used as killing machines. Did they have wives who would grow ashen at the news? Children who would never again hear their father’s voice reading them a bedtime story? The thought made Peter sick.

God in heaven, forgive me. Deliver me from this evil.”

As for negatives, I did think the ending was a little bit underwhelming, and some components of the story were a little over-the-top or especially convenient for the hero. A ventilation chimney leading straight out of the bad guys’ bunker complete with a ladder to the top and a metal grate cover (that isn’t even fastened on!) comes to mind. But it’s ultimately all part of the Marvel movie-ish fun and action.

The front cover quietly warns that “things are not what they seem.” But if you think this book seems like an energy-infused story full of revelations and heart…you might just be right.

Biblical · Full Reviews

Full Review, Bread of Angels

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“Like her grandparents, her parents had managed to bring only one child into this world, another daughter. And now it was Lydia’s turn to fight for this last piece of her family’s inheritance, this tiny patch of land that represented everything good and safe and noble in this world. Home and her father and purple. Lydia was content if the world had nothing else to offer.”

Continue reading “Full Review, Bread of Angels”