Thursday, April 24, 2014

Harvest of Rubies book review

Tessa Afshar weaves a lovely story about God, faith, and life during the time of the Prophet Nehemiah.

Sarah, the prophet Nehemiah's cousin, is Senior Scribe to the Queen of Persia - the only woman to have held such an important post in the Persian Empire.  A genius who is more at home with scrolls and accounts than with people, Sarah finds her worth in her achievements.

After solving a particularly thorny plot, she loses the job that is at the center of her life, and finds herself married to a man who despises her.  Through the heartache of loss, Sarah discovers the joys of friendship and peace of God.  To her astonishment, she learns that she has something to offer that is worth far beyond her ability with languages and sums.  Her very being proves a blessing to others.

Can she win the heart of her stubborn aristocratic husband, whom she has grown to love?

Author biography:
Tessa Afshar was voted "New Author of the Year" by the Family Fiction sponsored Reader's Choice Award 2011 for her novel Pearl in the Sand.  She was born in Iran and lived there for the first fourteen years of her life, attended a boarding school for girls in England, then moved to the United States.  Her conversion to Christianity in her twenties changed the course of her life forever.  Tessa holds an MDiv from Yale University where she served as cochair of the Evangelical Fellowship at the Divinity School.  She has spent the last thirteen years in full-time Christian work. 
(description and cover photo found on author's website. Biography copied from book.)

My review:
Wonderful historical novel!  5 stars
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 (excerpt used with permission from the author)
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!

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