Biblical fiction is a difficult genre to write in. Many people are familiar enough with the Bible to be able to point out inconsistencies and inaccuracies, even in written works that are clearly mean to be fictionalized. Writing about well-known and beloved characters without alienating readers would be hard, but writing about a character about which almost nothing is known is probably even more difficult. Tessa Afshar does an amazing job at this with her new book, Pearl in the Sand, about Rahab, the harlot who helped bring down the walls of Jericho and ended up becoming the ancestor of Jesus.
At the age of fifteen, Rahab became a harlot. She did it to save her family, but that did not stop her shame and dislike of her life. She despises Canaan’s gods, and refuses to worship them. If they were truly gods, would they allow their people to starve and suffer? When she first hears of the fierce Israelite army and their awe-inspiring God, she doesn’t know what to think. Soon the city of Jericho is awash in tales of the destructive army, but these Canaanites are smug about the protection of Jericho’s famed walls. Rahab is merely intrigued with tales of the Israelite God. When two Israelite spies enter Jericho, Rahab is moved to hide them, and even helps them safely escape the city. In return, they offer her protection with their army takes the city, and she and her family are the only ones who survive the ensuing destruction.
Rahab and her family are allowed to join the Israelites, and she finds faith in God that gives her strength. She meets Salmone, one of the leaders of the tribes, and the two must fight to overcome their pride and distrust and follow the path God has laid before them.
Pearl in the Sand is beautifully written, and grounded in historical details and description that brings not only the doomed city of Jericho to life, but also the Israelites and their way of life. Rahab is mistrustful of men, scarred by her path, and she has many emotional barriers to overcome before she grows into the full strength of her character. Salmone is burdened with pride and judges Rahab for her past, and it is difficult for him to see past who she was. The characters truly live and breathe on these pages, and it is wonderful to read this vision of how one woman’s life helped change the course of history.
(Galley from Moody Publishers via NetGalley)