Monday, July 7, 2014

REVIEW: IN THE FIELD OF GRACE ~ TESSA AFSHAR

“You never know who the Lord will use. Perhaps one day, it will be you, Ruth”.  Through the line of Ruth, the Moabite, came Jesus Christ, the saviour of the world.


Moody Publishers has graciously provided me with a complimentary copy of this book, via Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you!


 Beloved, I am afraid one day you will be famous. Everyone wil hear about your story, for you are far too extraordinary to remain forgotten.  As long as there are people in this world, they will speak of your faithfulness and courage [Afshar 2014:266]

Destitute, grief-stricken, and unwanted by the people of God, Ruth arrives in Israel with nothing to recommend her but Naomi's, love. Her loftiest hope is to provide enough food to save Naomi and herself from starvation. But God has other plans for her life.

While everyone considers Ruth an outcast, she is astounded to find one of the most honored men of Judah showing her favor. Long since a widower and determined to stay that way, Boaz is irresistibly drawn to the foreign woman with the haunted eyes. 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.

Based on the biblical account of Ruth, In the Field of Grace is the story of a love that ultimately changes the course of Israel's destiny and the future of the whole world.

This is one of my all time favourite book covers. So stunning! I especially love that they ultimately used the cover I voted for on Afshar's Facebook page 

At the market a young Moabite, Ruth, meets the Israelite, Naomi, and the two become fast, if unlikely, friends.  Ruth soon catches the eye of Naomi’s son, Mahlon.  It is not long before they are married.  With Naomi, Mahlon, Chilion and Orpah, Ruth finally experiences acceptance and love, and her marriage to Mahlon is a tender one.  It is also during this time when her new Israelite family teaches Ruth about the Lord, and as naturally as breathing Ruth comes to give her heart to the Lord as well.

[…] Ruth prayed to the Lord with increasing frequency.  It wasn’t a calculated, well-examined decision.  She gave it no thought.  She made no conscious change of allegiance in her faith.  She just clung blindly to the One who seemed to bring her a strange kind of relief.

A few years into their marriage, in illness takes Mahlon from Ruth, along with his brother, Chilion.  On the brink of starvation, Naomi makes the decision to return to her homeland, Bethlehem, where the harvest is bountiful.  Naomi releases Ruth and Orpah from their duties to her and bids them to return to their mothers’ houses.  Orpah obeys, but Ruth refuses to leave Naomi in one of the most famous statements from the Bible: “Where you go, I will go.  Where you lodge, I will lodge.  Your people will be my people and your God will be my God” (Ruth 1:16).


Naomi and Ruth  © Sweet Publishing

As a Moabite, a Caananite, Ruth is not welcome in Bethlehem.  The fact that she was once married to an Israelite does not endear her to the people of Bethlehem; on the contrary! “[It] only raises their ire more. She had no business marrying a son of Bethlehem”.

Without any means of supporting herself and Naomi, Ruth is forced to glean: the poorest of the poor are allowed to follow the harvesters and pick up whatever wheat is dropped or left behind.  The Lord answers Ruth’s prayer for guidance and leads her to the field of Boaz – a cousin of Naomi.  Boaz, a fair master and faithful servant of the Lord, fears for Ruth’s safety in other fields, and not only allows Ruth to glean in his field but instructs her to glean only in his field.  He then charges his servants to intentionally drop more wheat for Ruth to glean in order for Ruth to provide for herself and Naomi. 


Ruth Gleaning in Boaz' field © Sweet Publishing

In his field, Boaz comes to see Ruth as a remarkable woman, far removed from the unsavoury reputation that Moabite women hold.  He finds her to be a patient and kind woman, brushing off the insults of others, never retaliating with harsh words of her own.  More than anything Boaz values Ruth’s visible love for the Lord.  Despite Ruth’s destitute status, Ruth and Boaz become tentative friends.  Ruth never ceases to be astonished by Boaz’ character.  He is friendly, fair, compassionate and generous.  He treats his servants, and even her – a Moabite! – with kindness and respect.

Ruth and Boaz fall in love with each other, but desperately try to hide their feelings.  Ruth believes she is not worthy of Boaz, and Boaz believes he is too old for Ruth.  Thank goodness for Naomi’s interference, for these two are too stubborn to get out of their own way!


Boaz invites Ruth to join him and his servants for lunch © Sweet Publishing

Before they can settle into their happily ever after, Ruth and Boaz must learn to surrender their fears to the Lord and trust Him above all else.

In The Field of Grace is the fourth book by Tessa Afshar, and is a sequel of sorts to my beloved Pearl In The Sand.  It tells the story of Salmon and Rahab’s son, Boaz, and his Ruth; one of the most famous love stories in the Bible.

As with her previous books, Afshar brings a well-known Biblical tale to life in a marvellously realistic way.  I feel like I've experienced indifference from a family in Moab, hostility from a community in Bethlehem, gleaned wheat in Boaz' fields, fallen in love with the perfect gentleman in an olive grove and found a love so pure it will be remembered for thousands of years.  The book of Ruth is a short one of only four chapters, but Afshar has managed to turn Ruth’s story into a very believable account of what Ruth’s life could have been like. 

As much as In The Field of Grace (and the book of Ruth) is about the love Ruth bears for Boaz, it is also about the love Ruth bears for her mother-in-law, Naomi.  Even after the death of her husband, Ruth refused to separate from Naomi.  Instead, she joined Naomi in a move to Jerusalem, a place where she knew she would be unwelcome at best.  Ruth’s love for Boaz and her love for Naomi carry equal weight in this telling, a very clever touch, as historically Ruth is as well known for her love for Naomi as she is for her love for Boaz.  My only complaint in this regard (and it is a tiny one) is that Ruth and Boaz only meet approximately 25% into the book – I adore Boaz and I love him and Ruth together, so this complaint is just me being greedy and wanting even more of them.

Ruth holding her son Obed, with Boaz looking on © Sweet Publishing

I find it wonderfully poetic that Boaz falls in love with - and marries - a Caananite who came to love Jesus, much like his father and mother.  Rahab’s pearl earrings also make their way into the tale of Ruth and Boaz’ romance; a lovely touch by the author that made me extremely happy.

I love all the colourful characters in the book.  Ruth is wonderful; her legendary courage and loyalty is brought to life so beautifully.  Likewise, the character of Boaz is every inch the perfect gentleman, tender and kind – just like the Bible portrays him.  I felt very frustrated by Naomi at times, but I think in that the author illustrated just how bitter Naomi had become after the death of her husband and sons, and how Ruth’s love and God’s grace ultimately healed her hurts.  I adore Dinah and Adin and wish there was even more of them! 

Tessa Afshar has become one of my favourite authors, flawlessly bringing tales from the Bible to life.  I eagerly anticipate each of her new books, and she doesn’t let me down.  I don’t know what Afshar plans to write next, but I am still clinging to hope for a book about Lysander and Roxanne (from Harvest of Gold).  Here’s hoping :)


Product information:
Title: In The Field Of Grace
Author: Tessa Afshar
Publisher: Moody Publishers
Year: 2014
Number of pages: 304
ASIN: B00J3EQGSO

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One scene in particular touched my heart, and so reminded me of Jesus as our shepherd:

Ruth noticed the tender way Boaz caressed the lamb.  He owned thousands of sheep. One more or less could not make a material difference to him.  And yet he treated the helpless animal with a singular care, as though he were the only one Boaz owned.  As thought pain of this little lamb made his heart ache. 

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