I am a HUGE fan of Tessa Afshar's - I preordered this book the day I heard about it (many long months ago). And I was not disappointed! The story of Ruth is one I've heard told, and retold, and retold by everyone from pastors to secular authors. And, not surprisingly, this was my very favorite version.
The characters were all richly drawn and well-developed, not only the main ones we all know like Naomi, Ruth, and Boaz (although how the author was able to bring so much depth to characters we think we know so well was truly astonishing), but even the secondary characters who helped fill in the story were marvelously done. The author also managed to make a plot that, again, we all think we know so well, new and engaging.
Possibly the thing I admire most about Ms. Afshar's writing is her ability to seamlessly weave spiritual truths into her story, and this book is no different. I've read several authors who do indeed put valuable lessons in their books, but none manage to do it so flawlessly and beautifully. I never feel preached at, or like she has to maneuver the dialogue in order to fit some Scripture verse or life-changing moment for the characters, or like it's the same "revelations" I've read in most other Christian fiction. It all flows so well, and often I've found those things she shares utterly "new" (for me at least!), profound, and life-changing. Really. This is one of the only fiction books that I not only thoroughly enjoyed reading but feel like I've truly gained something from. I put it down and wanted to follow Jesus more closely. There was even a moment in the book where I had to stop reading because I just wanted to spend time with the Lord. I don't think that's ever happened to me before! Fiction that is entertaining and encouraging - you cannot ask for a better read than this!
Tessa Afshar credits her conversion to Christianity in her 20s for changing the course of her life forever. But her conversion has also enhanced the lives of others, blessing them through her writing and helping them gain a better understanding of life in Bible times.
Let me be clear: In The Field of Grace is a fictionalized retelling of the story of Ruth and Boaz. Reading it is not a substitute for reading the actual Book of Ruth in the Bible. However, it is a wonderful aid to read along with it. Doing so gave me a clearer picture of what life might have been like in that era and the special challenges faced by Ruth, Boaz, Naomi, Dinah, and others.
I thoroughly enjoyed In the Field of Grace, as I have enjoyed all of Tessa Afshar's other works. I enthusiastically recommend this book for anyone who enjoys historical fiction and Christian literature.
In the Field of Grace is the newest book by Tessa Afshar. I am a huge fan of hers, since discovering her books last year, so I was very excited when I first heard about this book and have been anticipating its release for months. There are so many things I want to say about it, but I will try to limit them so this review doesn't end up rivaling the novel in length.
First off, I loved it! This is fictional telling of the story of Boaz and Ruth from the Bible, and while I know a lot of it is solely a product of the author's imagination, it seemed so real. The depth of research that obviously went into it astounds me. I could tell from the very beginning that Ms. Afshar worked very hard to make it as accurate as possible, while also finding the balance of adding depth and details that brought everything to life. A few times, when I managed to put down the book, I had to remind myself when and where I was. The story drew me in that much. The characters, the descriptions, the historical details, the scripture that was chosen for the beginning of each chapter, all of it flowed together seamlessly into an amazing novel.
Ruth is obviously one of the protagonists in this book and as soon as I'm done here, I'm going to go read the book of Ruth again, because now I am fascinated and see her story in a different light. I'm actually not sure what to say about her. She is so strong, caring, loving, faithful, and a dozen other adjectives. I fell in love with her from the first. She comes to life on the pages and Tessa makes her feel so genuine. She has spent the formative years of her life feeling as though she is unloved and a burden, so when faced with love from Naomi and her God, she struggled to believe that He would want someone like her (a Moabite). I loved following her journey, because as the book progresses, we see her grow and change. She learns about the Lord mostly from Naomi and Boaz, but also begins to understand truths about Him on her own. Throughout the book we see small changes in her as she discovers new things about Him.
Boaz was wonderfully realistic, too. He is a bit of an anomaly in the world of fiction, I think. Maybe because he is so raw and we see so many sides of him. He is strong, yet gentle. Kind and caring, but also firm and a bit cunning when need be. He, like Ruth, has a strong faith which grows and changes throughout the story. I loved getting to know them both, since I never really put a lot of thought into either of them - what they must have been like, who they were aside from what little we know about them, what they faced, etc. I'm not sure I will ever be able to read the book of Ruth again without thinking of them as they are portrayed in this novel.
I always love the faith Tessa weaves into her stories. Obviously, they are fictional retellings of Biblical characters and faith being a big part is pretty much a must, but she includes it with a finesse that challenges and strengthens my own faith. I can't really pick out one specific spiritual truth this book focuses on, because there are several. From the analogy of the lamb, to the olive trees, to Ruth learning to accept whatever God brings her way with joy, to Boaz learning surrender, every part of it touched me. Tessa has a way of sharing each part that makes it applicable and real to those that read her books (at least, I hope it's not just me).
Another thing I really enjoyed about this book is Ruth and Boaz's relationship. It doesn't move quickly and starts out more as a friendship than anything else, which I enjoyed. There is, of course, the requisite misunderstanding between them, which fortunately only lasts a chapter or two, and leads into one of my favorite scenes in the whole book. If you've ever read the book of Ruth, then you know that she is very bold and goes to him on the threshing floor while he is sleeping and lies down at his feet. I love what he says to her here. He reminds her that she is so very precious to God and that the trials she has faced do not detract from that fact. He shows her she is loved, not for anything she has done or will do, but just because she is.
I honestly only have one complaint about this book and that is that epilogue was a little long and didn't make very much sense, until I read the author's notes afterward. Then I was able to appreciate what she intended it for.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys wonderful historical fiction that brings the Bible, and the people in it, to life (but it is no way intended to replace actually reading the Bible)!
I received an Advanced Reading Copy of this book from the author for my honest review, which I have given. I was not required to write a positive review and have not been compensated for it in any way. All opinions expressed are my own.
Tessa Afshar has done it again! She has taken a timeless story and given us a great picture as to what might have been in the life and time of Ruth and Boaz. I laughed and I cried. Truly a treasure to read!!