Sunday, October 17, 2010

Pearl in the Sand by Tessa Afshar

book cover

Pearl in the Sand
by Tessa Afshar

ISBN-13: 978-0-8024-5881-0
Trade Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Moody Publishers
Released: Sept. 2010

Author Website

Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Book Description from Back Cover:
Striking beauty comes at a price. Rahab paid it when, at the age of fifteen, she was sold into prostitution by the one man she loved and trusted--her father. With her keen mind and careful planning, she turned heartache into success, achieving independence while still young. And she vowed never again to trust a man. Any man.

God had other plans.

Into the emotional turmoil of her world walked Salmone, a prominent leader of Judah, held in high esteem by all Israel. A man of faith, honor, and pride. An enemy.

What is a woman with a wrecked past to do when she wants to be loved, yet no longer believes it possible?

The walls of Jericho are only the beginning. For Rahab, the real battle will be one of the heart.

Pearl in the Sand is a Biblical/historical romance novel about Rahab's life before and after Jericho's walls fell. I think both women and men would enjoy the story since the romance was realistic, with the shadows of a painful past and different upbringings shading their attraction and then creating troubles in making their marriage work.

The characters were engaging and very human. They struggled with things common throughout the ages: shame, guilt, pride, forgiveness, change, etc. The author stayed true to what was given in Scripture about Rahab and then filled out the details with reasonable events. I've read four fictional versions of Rahab's story, and this one is easily my favorite.

It was clear that the author spent time researching the culture to fill out the details of daily life. She also wove great Scriptural insights into the story as Rahab learned more about the God she chose to serve. I suspect that reading this story will be transformative for many readers.

I did notice that some more modern Jewish traditions (which wouldn't have existed at that time) were worked into the story as a part of Israelite culture, but that's understandable. All authors have to stop researching at some point, and these things weren't critical to the story. A couple scenes also had somewhat modern sensibilities (like the reason Salmone hesitated to kill an enemy soldier). But I was disappointed that the author knew of Deut. 22:11 and worked in into the story yet overlooked Deut. 24:5, which would have made a major impact on the story.

There was no explicit sex. There was no bad language. Overall, I highly recommend this enjoyable and insightful novel. I look forward to Tessa Afshar's future novels.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt from Chapter One
Dawn had yet to appear when Rahab tumbled into consciousness, courtesy of an impatient nudge. “Stop your laziness, girl. Your brothers and father are almost ready to leave.” Her mother gave Rahab one more unnecessary shove.

Rahab groaned and gave up on rest. Bleary-eyed and sore, she forced herself to rise from her bedroll. For two months she had been doing the work of men, waking before daybreak and wrestling the land all day with little food, water, or rest to renew her strength. It was useless—even at fifteen and only a girl she could see that. Their land had produced nothing but dust. Like the rest of Canaan, Jericho was in the grip of a brutal drought.

Though she knew their efforts to be wasted, every day she pushed herself almost past endurance because as long as they stayed busy, her Abba had hope. She couldn’t bear the thought of his despair.

“Child, hurry,” her mother snapped.

Rahab, who had already folded her bedroll and was almost finished dressing, continued her silent preparations at the same pace. She could move no faster if the King’s armies were at the door.

Her father entered the room, chewing half-heartedly on a piece of stale bread. His face, pale and drawn, glistened with sweat. Rahab finished tying her sash with a quick motion and snatched a piece of hard barley cake that would serve as breakfast and noonday meal. Giving her father a tight hug she said, “Good morning, Abba.”

He stepped out of her embrace. “Letme breathe, Rahab.” Turning to his wife he said, “I’ve made a decision. If I find no sign of a crop today, I’m giving up.”

Rahab sucked in her breath just as her mother let out an agitated wail. “Imri, no! What will become of us?”

Her father shrugged and walked outside. Apparently his season of denial was at an end. He was admitting defeat. In a haze, Rahab followed him. She knew this day would be no different from the others. The thought of her father’s wretchedness made her cringe.

Read the rest of chapter one and two.


Man of la Books said...

I've read this book, even though it's suppose to be "Christian Fiction" I didn't find it to be so except the way of worshiping G-d.
A bit strange, I thought, for Jews to worship the Christian way.

Unlike you the whole scene with Salmone not killing an enemy solider didn't resonate with me.

Otherwise I liked it.
Here is my review:

Genre Reviewer said...

Man of la Books,

Thanks for dropping by and taking the time to comment.

Personally, I thought of this book as "Jewish and Christian fiction" since I think it was intended to appeal to both. :)

I read your review in hopes of better understanding what you meant in your comments here. I think you misunderstood my statement about Salmone. I agree that it wouldn't have even occurred to him to not kill the soldier who turned his back. While I prefer historical accuracy, I can also see that the author was trying to show a modern audience that he was super-honorable.

I'm still not certain what you're specifically referring to with the 'Christian style of worship/name in vain' reference. Since they didn't use God's actual name in the book, I'm curious as to why you thought they were using His name (what "the LORD" stands for in that verse) in vain. Also, the actual worship style didn't strike me as Christian. Since some of it was taken from pre-Rahab Scriptural examples, some came from God's commands (if you count sin offerings), and other parts reflected later Jewish practices, I'm curious--what, specifically, was Christian about it?

Again, thanks for dropping by. Please excuse all my questions--I always love to learn new things!

Kandra in Tennessee said...

Great review on a good book! I found this "biography" of the biblical Rahab to be realistic and refreshing. It reminded me a bit of the Lois T. Henderson novels about biblical women that I read as a teenager. I also agree that applying Gen. 24:5 to these characters would have been interesting. I enjoyed the insights into the thoughts of both Rahab and was a memorable book. I do not, however, recommend it for young teen readers, because of the intimacy issues the couple had to overcome.
All in all, though, it was a sweet story and well done.

Genre Reviewer said...


Thanks for taking the time to share your review of the book. :)