Beautifully entertaining and inspiring story of Ruth
July 30, 2014
Tessa Afshar is a gifted writer whose stories exemplify what I hope for when I pick up a Christian fiction book, and that is the skillful communication of spiritual truths in a way that entertains while inspiring and encouraging me to grow in my faith. Drawing from what is familiar to many, Tessa fleshes out the Old Testament story of Ruth with rich characterization, emotional romance, historical background, and spiritual depth. The four chapters of Ruth are combined with a moving fictional narrative in a way that doesn't take away or change the biblical account. For an even richer experience, I recommend reading the book of Ruth both before and after reading In the Field of Grace.
There was nothing about the portrayal of Ruth, Naomi and Boaz that felt unrealistic; in fact, the very opposite was true, because they felt real. It was easy to sense the depth of Naomi's despair and anger over her losses, why Ruth was willing to leave her family and religion of idolatry, and the incredible goodness of Boaz - who, as a kinsman redeemer, becomes a picture of Christ.
Failing to be the son her parents hoped for, Ruth grew up unwanted, invisible, and with constant criticism - whereas in Naomi's family, she found extravagant, undeserving approval. Ruth wasn't wildly in love with Mahlon, but "he drew her like a shepherd's fire on a freezing desert night. . . . Being with Naomi's family was like an antidote to the bitterness of her own relations." Watching Ruth respond to the call of God on her heart and cling to her faith is very moving.
I really liked seeing the character of Boaz fleshed out, because I've never had a clear image of what he might have been like. Wealthy, middle aged, highly respected, generous and caring, with a soft spot for those in need - and we see the great insight Boaz has into the human heart in the scene with the crippled boy, Eli, one of my favorite parts.
Our pastor recently took us through a sermon series where we looked at the stories of biblical characters and events (the lower story), then how God's hand could be seen throughout (the upper story). That's exactly what Tessa brings out so clearly with In the Field of Grace. So many spiritual themes spoke to me - important themes I've known all my life, but constantly need to be reminded of. For instance, that God always has a plan for our lives and obedience is key . . . even if we don't receive the desires of our heart, we can find contentment in Him . . . every person has extreme value in God's sight . . . no sorrow is ever wasted in God's hands.
Tessa knows the ways of God and conveys them beautifully through her writing. I'm impressed not only with Tessa's writing skills, but her heart. God looks for those who have a heart for Him, whose hearts beat for Him, and that's what Tessa brings out in Ruth - her love, faithfulness, self sacrifice, and compassion. Ruth questions why the life of one Moabite widow would matter to the Lord of heaven and earth, and I think the book's overarching theme is expressed in these words: "The Lord uses odd instruments to fulfill His will. The weaker the vessel, the better He likes it. It only proves His strength."
I appreciate a book that challenges or makes me examine my faith. When Boaz is asked to surrender that which is most precious to him, Ruth, I had to in turn ask myself, what have I held back from the Lord? Tessa concludes with a wonderful epilogue that shows how the upper story plays out, and I'll conclude with these words spoken by David to his son, Solomon, that challenge us as well . . .
"There is only one measure of true success. How close you remain by God's side. Does the dust of His feet get on your cloak because you follow so close? Does the sound of His whisper reverberate in your ear because you have drawn so near? Are you obedient to that voice, day after day, hour after hour?"
Thank you to Tessa Afshar for providing an ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.
Oh, my! Another amazing release from Tessa Afshar!!
I have loved every book I've read by Ms. Afshar, and this one is no exception! To make things even better, she writes about Ruth and Boaz in In the Field of Grace! The story of Ruth is a long time favorite of mine. I was so thrilled to discover that's who I'd be reading about. I love how Ms. Afshar tries to stay true to the Bible while also threading in fiction where there are gaps or "loose ends" in the story. She did this in a truly amazing way.
I loved how she characterized Naomi, Ruth, and Boaz. She fleshed them out, gave them dreams, gave them fears... In essence, she breathed life into them. One day when I'm in Heaven I'm going to ask Ruth to tell me her story. (As well as ask many other people, but I digress...) It wouldn't surprise me if Ruth reveals many of the same emotions that Ms. Afshar portrays in the story. It's beautifully done. This is another book that will have a permanent place on my shelf to be re-read, and lent to people who I think need the story brought to life. I'm very picky with what Biblical fiction I read, but I'm proud to say Tessa Afshar's works have made the cut. ;-) I recommend this novel to fans of Biblical fiction anywhere from adults to the teenagers of fifteen.
I received this book from River North through CFBA in return for an honest review of my opinions, which I have done. Thanks!!
I have read some of Tessa Afshars prior books and enjoyed them very much so when the chance came for me to get a copy of her latest book, I jumped at it! This is a fictional account of the story of Ruth and Boaz from the Old Testament.
The story begins with Ruth meeting Naomi in Moab. Readers see Ruth before her marriage to Mahlon and what her home life was like. Ruth desperately wants someone to love her and finds this with her new husband and his family. Then, disaster strikes and Ruth has a choice to make. Her mother-in-law, Naomi, is going to return to her homeland. She encourages Ruth to stay in Moab, her own homeland, but Ruth has nothing to keep her in Moab. She has been a part of Naomis family, experienced love there and has gotten to know about their God. She declares that Naomis God will now be her God and where Naomi goes, Ruth will go. They set off for Bethlehem.
Once in Bethlehem, Ruth is treated as an outcast as she is a Gentile. Boaz shows her kindness by allowing her to glean in his fields. Without Ruths hard work she and Naomi will starve. Ruths hard work, kindness and caretaking of Naomi are noticed. Ruth and Boaz spend more time together and a romance begins. There are trials to overcome and surrendering to the Lords will and timing.
I thought that the characters were just spot-on and could easily relate to their emotions and reactions. I loved the side story of Dinah and Adin, and thought it wonderful to see Ruth given another chance to show her mercy, compassion, love and service toward others. The love story of Ruth and Boaz was heart-warming. The love shared between Ruth and her mother-in-law Naomi was also gratifying to witness. Ruth had such a servants heart for the Lord and other people. She always thought of others first before herself. She won over the women in the village by her actions. She truly had a heart for God. Boaz was also very compassionate and generous. He was blessed by God and he shared his blessings with others. This is an easy story to get lost in and has a wonderful journey toward a life given to service of God while having a happy ending!
The real romance story you discover is God's for you between the pages!!!
July 26, 2014
If you have read some of the stories of the Bible, you get a broad sense of what happened. But like so many times we are missing some of the finer points, the motivations and those are found in the details. My newest favorite genre this year is Biblical Fiction. Taking a story we all know and love straight from the Bible and enhancing the details of 'what could of been!' It is never meant to take the place of those beloved stories but simply a way I believe to draw you deeper. To bring you right in the forefront of the action and make you believe you are there actually witnessing the events.
This is my second novel from author Tessa Afshar, and with it comes the retelling of the story of Ruth. If you are familiar with the story than you know that Naomi, Ruth's mother-in-law, decides to return to Israel after losing both of her sons. But before deciding to uproot Ruth from her own family roots, she relives her of any burden to stay with her along her to journey back to her home. Ruth vows that no matter what happens in life, she will always stay by Naomi side and so begins their adventure to Naomi's home. We learn that the harvest has been plentiful and even gleaners, are having success with picking up enough left over grain that they will not go hungry. Ruth decides to venture out to take care of their needs and finds her way into the fields of Boaz.
She first has to learn how to glean and being a Moabite woman, she is considered an outcast in town. With no one to help her, she decides to linger behind and take the leftovers if she can find them. But soon she garners the attention of Boaz, the owner of the field, who is smitten with her looks as well as her quiet presence. When he learns she is the daughter of Naomi, his cousin, he realizes he must offer to help but not in the way to embarrass her. He warns his men to offer her protection while working in his fields and to ensure that each day, she takes home more than enough to feed them both.
While they are both learning lessons along the way, dealing with grief, accepting God's will in both of their lives, and slowly falling in love along the way, we can see the same example being laid out before each of us. How God so lovingly romances all of us and shows us in innumerable ways just how much He loves us. I love the part of the novel where Boaz it trying to describe what the world is like to an unborn baby and he gets a lesson from God in the process in dealing with the grief and loss Boaz feels when he loses his wife Judith and their unborn child.
"Then the Lord asked me, 'Do you think he understands? Do you think he knows what your world is like now?'
"No, Lord,' I replied, 'How could he? He only knows his mother's womb. His world is too small. I could use every word the world has to offer and he would still not perceive our world. He has to be in it to understand it.'
"'No more can you understand My kingdom,' He said to me. 'No more can you perceive where your wife and daughter and newborn son reside now. Yet that world is no less real than your own.'" (pg 124).
I received In the Fields of Grace by Tessa Afshar compliments of River North Publishing and Christian Fiction Blog Alliance for my honest review. I did not receive any monetary compensation for a favorable review and the opinions expressed here are strictly my own unless otherwise notated. This is such a beautiful love story not only between Ruth and Boaz but also between God and us.. There are just so many wonderful take aways from this novel I simply can't list them all. For those that have experienced loss and are looking for answers, I would encourage you to check out this novel and then follow it up with the story of Ruth from the Bible. It simply is breath-taking and full of life in many ways. I easily rate this one a 5 out of 5 stars and can't wait to go back and pick up the other novels Tessa has written that I haven't been blessed to enjoy yet.
In the Field of Grace by Tessa Afshar is brilliant. An enticing blend of biblical history and spectacular imagery make the familiar story of the book of Ruth come alive.
While this story is a well known story, Afshar brings in her unique perspective and practical wisdom to weave a story that will resonate with you long after you have read the final page. These things combine to make this a must read for Christian women. In reading this story, you, the reader come away with a better understanding of life. Life doesn't always turn out the way you plan for, but God wants us to trust Him enough to leave things in His hands. This wasn't an easy lesson for Ruth, Naomi or Boaz to learn. Yet we see that they did surrender things to God and He did some amazing things. As Naomi told Ruth, "You want what you want, not what He is willing to give. It's an awkward spot. In my experience, He usually wins. Try to remember, daughter, time does not work the same in the hands of the Lord as it would in ours. Sometimes, out of the delays of life, He calls forth a blessing."
We see the blessings God bestowed on Ruth, Naomi and Boaz. It is much harder to hang on in our own lives, but a book like this helps me to hang on and believe that God knows what He is doing in my life.
My thanks go out to Moody Publishers and Netgalley for providing me with a free ebook to read and review. I also want to thank Ms. Afshar for her gift in writing biblical fiction. I know that I will learn something about myself through her books and I eagerly await her next book.