Book Review and Giveaway: Pearl in the Sand by Tessa Afshar

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I got this eBook for free.
Give­away: Moody Pub­lish­ers has kindly made books avail­able to three (3) lucky win­ners who will be ran­domly cho­sen on Mon­day, Sep­tem­ber 20, 2010. Entry form below.

Pearl in the Sand” by Tessa Afshar, a bib­li­cal fic­tion novel, is the story of Rahab, one of the most thought pro­vok­ing women of the Jew­ish bible (the Old Tes­ta­ment), in the book of Joshua. Rahab is a woman of the city of Jeri­cho and works in the world’s old­est pro­fes­sion, a pros­ti­tute as well as an inn keeper. Rahab earned praise in the bible because of her unique faith, as well as being of the lin­eage of Jesus.

As the story begins, we find four­teen year-old Rahab liv­ing in poverty with her fam­ily. Rahab’s father decides that the only way to sur­vive the famine is to sell his daugh­ter into a life of pros­ti­tu­tion. The dev­as­tated girl decides that she will main­tain the illu­sion of con­trol over her life, and instead of being a tem­ple pros­ti­tute (kedeshah) she will become a zonah, what we would call a street walker. (zonah vs. kedeshah) How­ever, instead of hav­ing many clients, Rahab becomes highly selec­tive, a paid mis­tress to the rich and pow­er­ful while run­ning an inn for her clients.

As rumors of war start cir­cu­lat­ing Jeri­cho (pun intended), Rahab hears about the mir­a­cles that the Hebrew G-d has per­formed. By chance she encoun­ters two Hebrew spies, hides them in her inn and pro­tects them from the king’s sol­diers. For her kind­ness, the two spies make a deal by promis­ing not to harm her or her fam­ily in the ensu­ing war. Rahab has betrayed her own peo­ple, she has decided between G-d’s plan and the plan of earthly kings.

The war has dev­as­tated the mighty Jeri­cho and Rahab’s fam­ily joins the Hebrews, more specif­i­cally to the tribe of Judah. This is where we meet Salmone, a fierce war­rior, head of the tribe of Judah, sec­ond only to Joshua. Salmone is not entirely happy to have the stained fam­ily of a zonah join­ing his tribe, but he must accept her past.

This is an fas­ci­nat­ing book, the bib­li­cal char­ac­ters of Rahab, Salmone, Joshua, Ezra and oth­ers are skill­fully brought to life by Ms. Afshar. We get to know the char­ac­ters by leisurely jour­neying along­side them through­out the book. This is not the usu­ally love story, the rela­tion­ship between the char­ac­ters is rocky through­out the book, from begin­ning to end. The most pow­er­ful part of the book comes when Rahab, a pros­ti­tute, finds her true worth both in G-d’s eye as well as in her husband’s eye. The sec­ond half of the book is bril­liant, emo­tional and engag­ing, how­ever I found the first half lack­ing.

Rahab’s accep­tance of G-d, (as oppose to her worth in G-d’s eye as men­tioned above) just hap­pened a bit too quick. At the time the story takes place, the way the char­ac­ters talk about G-d would have been a vio­la­tion of the third com­mand­ment (“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain”). Granted our reli­gious and polit­i­cal offi­cials do it on a daily base, but back then this kind of talk would have been con­sid­ered blas­phe­mous. By the way, it’s still a vio­la­tion we just don’t hold peo­ple account­able any longer.

I also felt the bat­tle scenes could have been bet­ter described. At one point Salmone doesn’t kill an enemy because his back is turned to him – sorry, that doesn’t make sense. Granted it’s used as a plot point but I feel there would have been a bet­ter way to achieve that. Any war­rior, Jew­ish, Chris­t­ian, Mus­lim, or any other reli­gion, whether brave, cow­ard, cheat or a hero would have stuck a sword in his oppo­nent the moment his back was turned. Not to do so would be fool­ish, arro­gant and stu­pid.
I under­stand that this is a fic­tional story, but it is his­tor­i­cal fic­tion and in his­tory chivalry sim­ply did not exist on the bat­tle­field (and rarely any­where else with the notable excep­tion of the minds of poets).

Pearl in the Sand” is a strange and inter­est­ing book, a story about Jews with, I felt, a Chris­t­ian way of wor­ship.  As the author says her­self, and as I say with each and every review of bib­li­cal fic­tion, before you read this book, do your­self a favor and read the original.

My rat­ing for Pearl in the Sand - 4

Zohar — Man of La Book


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Con­gradul­ta­tions to the win­ners:
autumn C.

Moody Pub­lish­ers launched an e-preview of Pearl in the Sand, for which any­one can sign up and read the first 3 chap­ters of the book for free, deliv­ered to their inbox in 8 install­ments. To sign up, got to and click the "Free Down­loads" tab, or go directly to this link Once you and/or your blog fol­low­ers have signed up, they will start receiv­ing the chap­ter excerpts.

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