Thursday, July 3, 2014

My Review: In the Field of Grace

In the Field of Grace is the newest book from Christy Award-winning author, Tessa Afshar!  It is a wonderfully written novel based on Ruth and Boaz from the Bible.  May I add, without sounding too biased (which I fully admit to being), that I absolutely love the cover?  :)
Two women. Alone. With no provision.  Can a woman who has lost everything, except her beloved mother, find hope in a foreign land?
With lost love, a barren womb, and an empty future, Ruth leaves her home after losing her husband to follow the woman she has grown to love as a true parent - her husband's mother, Naomi.
Ruth arrives in Israel with nothing to recommend her but Naomi's love.  She is reduced to gathering leftovers once the harvester's have finished collecting grain from the field - a job only for the loewest of the low - to keep them from starvation. 
But God has other plans for Ruth's life.
Ruth is shocked to find the owner of the field - one of the wealthiest and most honored men of Judah - is showing her favor.  He tells himself he is only being kind to his cousin Naomi's chosen daughter when he goes out of his way to protect her from harm, but his heart knows better.

Obstacles.  Heartache.  Withered dreams.  How can God forge love, passion, and new hope between two such different people?

About the author:
Tessa Afshar was voted "New Author of the Year" by the Family Fiction sponsored Reader's Choice Awards 2011 for her novel Pearl in the Sand. Her book, Harvest of Rubies was nominated for the 2013 ECPA Book Award in the fiction category and World Magazine chose Harvest of Rubies as one of four notable books of the year. Her novel, Harvest of Gold was nominated for the 2014 Christy Award. Tessa was born in Iran to a nominally Muslim family, and lived there for the first fourteen years of her life. She moved to England where she survived boarding school for girls and fell in love with Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte, before moving to the United States permanently. 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 fifteen years in full-time Christian service in New England.
(author bio from Amazon, description coped from back cover, and cover photo from Deeper Shopping.  All rights reserved.)

My Review: 5 stars
Amazing new book from Tessa Afshar! 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.
I love this quote, from Dinah to Boaz regarding surrender, “Surrender means you accept God’s will, whatever He may choose. But you lean into hope. Into expectation. Not into discouragement. When God asks us to surrender, He only wants our full trust. His will is not that the worst should come to pass.” - Dinah, page 249  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.
*Please note, the quotation is used with permission from the author.  It is from an Advanced Reading Copy of the book and may be slightly different in the final edition. 

Thank you for taking the time to stop by my blog!  I hope you enjoyed my review and will consider reading the book!  It really is as good as all my gushing says.  :)
If you are interested in checking out other reviews (so you know it's not just my opinion) or maybe supporting the author by purchasing the book, here are a few links to help you out:


Barnes & Noble

Christian Book

Again, thank you for being here!  If you have time, I would love to hear from you, so please leave a comment! 
I hope you have a wonderful day!


1 comment:

  1. Sarah, I also received an ARC from Tessa and just started reading it yesterday. Your review is lovely and I completely share your thoughts. This is the first book of Tessa's that I've read and I think she excels at biblical fiction. Thanks for sharing with us, Sarah.