Debs Dozen: Bible History Persian Era Brought to Life in a Harvest of Rubies
March 26, 2017
Age: Over 65
Bible History can be fascinating or dull. My personal preference is well-written historical fiction of the various eras. One of my fave authors of this genre is Tessa Afshar. Harvest of Rubies is a delightful book set in the Persian reign of Artaxerxes and his Jewish advisor, Nehemiah.
Sarah is an only child whose mother died when she was young. Her scribe father has no clue how to raise a young girl or how to give her the love she needs. As a result, Sarah grows up feeling valued only for her abilities as a scribe and not for her person or personality. When an opportunity arises for Sarah to go to the palace to be the senior scribe for Queen Damaspia, she goesreluctantly. She is cleaned up and educated on palace protocol. And she does an excellent job for the queen. But Sarah still feels unworthy and unloved.
Because of her value to the queen and as a reward, Damaspia gives her a husbandwhich horrifies Sarah. Youll love the palace intrigue, the schemes Sarah uncovers, and the slow realization that maybe she needs the Lord and Lord Darius. How all of the events occur is the stuff of fairy talesor God in action. Five Stars.
Tessa Afshar is a brilliant author whose first book, Pearl in the Sand, resulted in her being voted as New Author of the Year by the Readers Choice Awards. She was born in Iran and lived there for her first fourteen years, attended a boarding school for girls in England, and then moved to the US. She converted to Christianity in her twenties and her life changed. She holds an MDiv from Yale and for the last thirteen years has served in full-time Christian service.
Tessa gave me a copy of Harvest of Rubies, but I was in no way obligated to write a favorable review.
"Rubies!" I cried. "The look like rubies on the vine. You've grown a harvest of rubies, Bardia."
"On my twelfth birthday, my father discovered that I could read." This is the opening line in Harvest of Rubies, and probably one of my most favorite opening lines in a book ever.
Harvest of Rubies, by author Tessa Afshar, is Biblical fiction set in Persia during the time of Nehemiah, during the reign of King Artaxerxes. Sarah, the main character, but a fictional one, is cousin to Nehemiah. As a child she teaches herself to read and write, a skill not common for women, and eventually finds herself as the queen's head scribe.
Early on in the story, Sarah solves a mystery for the queen, and obtains the queen's favor. Because of this favor, she becomes betrothed to the queen's cousin, thus removing her from her position as scribe and placing her in a position of royalty.
Because the marriage is one that is arranged, there are some things to overcome for the couple, and Sarah finds herself in danger arising from her presence at her new husband's estate.
There were many things I liked about this book. I really enjoy the genre of Biblical fiction, and the time period was one I am not really familiar with, so it was interesting to learn more about it.
I liked the main character Sarah so much. I was so excited that she was a young girl stepping outside of what was generally expected into God's plan for her life. That fact that she was a scribe (writer) and could read, two of my favorite activities, had me hooked from the get-go. (I won't lie though-I was a little miffed when she had to get married, and lost her position as scribe.)
I identified a lot with Sarah. She is a Jew by birth, but since the passing of her mother when she was child, that relationship with God was not tended to. Her relationship with God develops throughout the course of the story and it is a beautiful thing to see. What happens in that relationship and what she learns about herself, also taught me some things about myself. I also learned more about the scriptures, especially John 15. In that passage, Jesus talks about being "in the vine," which is the main premise for this book.
I recommend this book to anybody who wants to become more familiar with the time of Nehemiah, and the culture of Persia, especially the customs of royalty. If you enjoy the genre of Biblical fiction, you will enjoy this book. It is also a love story, so if you enjoy romance, you will like this one as well.
Many blessings as you grow in Christ,
Disclosure: I received this book free from Moody Publishers Blogger Review Program. I was not required to give a favorable review. The thoughts and opinions found here are entirely my own.
For the first time in my 20+ years of reading a book did what I thought was the impossible. I have gone through the gamut of emotions with the characters in literally hundreds of novels. Some of them tugged at the heartstrings and some were sad, but until Harvest Of Rubies not one book had brought me to tears. In those pages Nehemiah tells Sarah that her worth isn't defined by her abilities and that she has been hiding behind the gifts God gave her. Those words struck like one of Darius's arrows. I don't have a Nehemiah to tell me the truth and I don't yet have the hope of a Darius. But what I do have is that same God using the pages of a novel, penned by a woman who's life has been far removed from mine, to tell me that it is His opinion alone that matters and that His view of me is much different than how others, and even I, see myself.
Honestly, it is how IT made me feel and even think, that makes Harvest Of Rubies such a good book in my opinion. Yes, the book is well-written; the research and rich detail that Tessa Afshar put into it are wonderful. But is the way she caught my attention and made me feel as if Nehemiah and the others were speaking directly to me, not preaching at me, but telling the honest-to-goodness truth.
I started reading the book and thanks to the internet being down I had few distractions, I actually finished it over the course of the afternoon. Even now after I have finished it I still find my mind going back to what I read. A truly good book is one that long after you might forget the character's names you still remember what it contained.
I am usually fairly skeptical of Biblical fiction, questioning how accurate to the Bible and history the book is, but Tessa Afshar has won me over as a new fan with Harvest Of Rubies.
(I received a copy of this book from Mood Publishers/River North in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are entirely my own.
Harvest of Rubies has quickly become a favorite of mine. I'm writing this review after reading it for the second time, and I believe I may have enjoyed it more this time than the previous, if that's even possible!
This book is written in the first person, from the point of view of Sarah, the main character. I loved the voice Ms. Afshar gives her. She speaks occasionally as though remembering a past event, or as if she is telling this story to someone. She is sarcastic, sassy, and has a rather droll sense of humor, something with which I relate. I can just hear her saying certain things with that dry humor and it cracks me up! Sarah is awkward and speaks without thinking, which endeared her to me even more. She is so real. I loved that!
She has spent most of her life finding her self worth in how well she performs a task. She doesn't see herself as worthy of attention and believes she must earn the love and approval of others. Seeing her learn and grow in faith was my favorite part of the book!
While there are several conversations throughout the book that I enjoyed immensely - I liked the metaphors used and how Sarah links things to what she knows of God's character - I think my favorite was the discussion between her and Nehemiah, her cousin, when he tries to show her where she should find her worth - in God. That particular discourse sticks out in my mind.
"But do you think the Lord counted them [Adam and Eve] worthy because of their abilities?" . . . "They hadn't even begun their work yet when He made His first pronouncement over them. He called them very good when they hadn't achieved a single thing." - Nehemiah, page 266
Her husband, Darius, is an interesting character. We see him through her eyes, which means we don't often know what he is thinking, but surprisingly, this didn't bother me like it normally would. Ms. Afshar does such a great job of letting us know what is going on with him and showing us who he is, that even without the story coming from his point of view, we come to know him quite well. He seems hard and arrogant at first, but as we get to know him, we see another side of him. I enjoyed his and Sarah's conversations, their sparring and comebacks making me laugh and smile.
As much as I didn't want the book to end, I'm happy to know that it isn't the end of their story. We see them again in Harvest of Gold!
I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys Biblical historical fiction!