Tessa Afshar's writings are well researched and I have enjoyed reading her books. I appreciate the historical background she includes, and the cultural threads that one sees running through her stories.
The characters in Harvest of Gold are well developed, very human, very real. The struggles of the Jewish nation as they try to rebuild Jerusalem after the return from exile is very poignant, and at the end of the day, the author leaves one with the sense of the presence of God in the midst of our struggles. I understand Darius' struggles, Sarah's heartache and Nehemiah's complete dependence on God.
I have read and reread Harvest of Gold multiple times, and have been studying the book of Nehemiah with new eyes.
Harvest of Gold is the second book in Tessa Afshar's Harvest series. This book is set around the event of Nehemiah rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. In it we continue to follow the story of Darius, Sarah, and of course, Nehemiah. Unlike Harvest of Rubies, we get to read the story from the point of view of all 3 main characters, something I immensely enjoyed. While I also liked reading the previous one from Sarah's view point, this one I felt had a little more depth. I liked knowing what was going on with each of them and what they were thinking.
If Harvest of Rubies is Sarah's book, then this one is Darius'. We get to know and understand him better. Honestly, he isn't a very likeable character, at first. He is hard, bitter, and I didn't care for how he treated Sarah. As I continued reading, I still had a hard time caring for him, though I did like him a little more. I finally fell in love with him about halfway through the book, when we start to understand what drives him.
Darius has a very high moral standard, so when Sarah doesn't tell him something important, he once again withdraws from her. I really wanted him to stand up and get it together, but that wasn't part of his character, yet. Even though I was rather apathetic toward him, I still enjoyed his journey. I was looking forward to seeing him redeemed and Ms. Afshar did an excellent job.
Sarah was her usual self; spunky, sassy, and bold. I still adored her and her heart. There was one point when I wanted to shake her, but that just made her more real to me. I have to really care about characters for them to frustrate me that much.
I believe the main spiritual themes of this book are forgiveness and surrender. Darius must learn both. He has spent most of his life refusing to feel or let others too close, but with Sarah in his life, breaking down his walls, he's struggling to maintain his distance. This alone makes him lash out at her when she makes a mistake. He lays all the blame at her feet and shuts down even further. He must learn to forgive, something that only truly works with the Father's help. He also must learn to surrender, which is a battle he fights through most of the book. I appreciated his struggle with both themes. Ms. Afshar doesn't try to gloss over either, but rather portrays both as the difficult issues they are.
Sarah must also learn to surrender, both to God and to Darius. She has been taking care of herself for so long, that she has a hard time trusting Darius to make decisions regarding her well-being. The same is true of her trust in God. When she faces a trial, she asks, "where are You, God?" as we all do at some time or another. She doesn't understand why God would allow the circumstance and she struggles to surrender to Him, to trust that He knows best.
I really enjoyed the secondary characters, Lysander, Roxanna, and Pari! While they really are secondary and we don't know them well, I fell in love with each of them. I wish Lysander and Roxanna would get their own book, but I believe Ms. Afshar plans to leave their story up to her readers' imaginations.
The descriptions were so vivid! I often felt as though I was actually there, traveling with them, or viewing the city of Jerusalem for the first time. Ms. Afshar really brings history to life in all of her books and this one is no exception! Her stories draw you in and refuse to let go until the end, even the occasional frustrating character can't take away from her masterful writing.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys Biblical fiction!
Sarah and Darius have been married for almost a year, and things have not changed between them. She has fallen in love with Darius despite his faults and insistence that want nothing to do with the Jewish God. While there is mutual respect and tenderness between them, Darius cannot love her or believe in her God. Accustomed to hiding his emotions and true feelings behind a mask of indifference, Darius is unable to show Sarah the love she deserves. When a plot to kill King Artaxerxes is unearthed and Darius is called upon to hunt down the would-be assassin, everything they have worked for begins to crumble. Will they be able to resolve the differences they brought to a marriage they were forced into? And will Darius ever find the God his wife so desperately believes and clings to?
In the meantime, Nehemiah has been the highly esteemed personal cup bearer to King Artaxerxes for many years. After so long in the Persian court, he has grown soft and pampered as one of the king's servants. His heart is burdened and grieved, however, when he hears that the walls of Jerusalem have been torn down and the city ravished. Upon further investigation, he discovers that the inhabitants have long since fled, and those who remain are on the verge of breaking from the desolate living conditions. Will Nehemiah find the support he needs from those in high places to rebuild Jerusalem? Can the Lord's people be restored to their former glory?
This was a stunning re-introduction to the lives and story of Darius and Sarah. The supporting characters were just as good as before, and of course, the intrigues of the Persian court are beyond what words can describe. Afshar does what every author of biblical fiction wants: to take the reader to a time and place where we can feel we are truly a part of the story, and to a life that we can only dream of. To walk in our imagination the places of the past where the people of the Bible called home. To breath the heartbeat of the story as if it was our own. All of this is accomplished, and more; for you will feel like you have come home.
This book was provided by the publisher for free in exchange for an honest review.
Engaging. Inspiring. Heart- stopping and heart- rending. Harvest of God takes readers on a journey from ancient Persia to the broken-down walls of Jerusalem, re-building our hope as Nehemiah's story is woven through a complex plot with multi-layered characters we love and hate and then love some more. A fabulous biblical novel that sent me straight back to God's Word!
"Nehemiah rolled up a parchment and tapped its end against his palm. "Because I believe I was called to this. What do you think destiny is? A smooth path that never jostles you? No. When you walk in your destiny, you will crash and fall more times than you can count. But the secret is to hold on to God's vision for your lifeâ€”and for the lives of those He puts under your charge. No matter how many times you fall, crash, and fail, you get up. You get up and face your obstacles."
Continuing with the story of Sarah and Darius, Harvest of Gold, by the incredible story teller Tessa Afshar, takes us back into the days of Artaxerxes and one of the greatest empires the world has ever known: the Persian Empire.
I love all of Tessa's books. Her writing style, her research and her stories are wonderfully written and they keep you turning the pages. Harvest of Gold was no different: it makes me want to read the first one again. What an era of history she brings to life! The world run by an Empire, which we will probably never fully grasp, the politics, the uprisings, the contrast between rich and poor. oh man! I wouldn't mind traveling back in time to see some of it. It's such an intriguing backdrop to a story.
I think another aspect to a great novel is a great supporting cast. I loved the side characters in this one (especially Lysander and Roxanna). I hope more releases come out with some of these characters! Hint, hint :). I want to story to continue because it's such fantastic biblical fiction!
Plus, can we all give a shout out to the brilliant bolds that make up all of her covers? I love them!