Sunday, November 2, 2014

In the Field of Grace, by Tessa Afshar - A Book Review

This book was an unexpected joy to read. I have always loved the Bible story of Ruth. Her quiet strength and her devotion to her mother-in-law, Naomi, has always been an inspiration to me. When I saw this title, I looked forward to having time to read it. In the Field of Grace is based upon the Bible story, but tells a more detailed accounting of her life. In my opinion, it takes a lot of creative licensing to write the storyline while still staying true to the basics.

The story begins with Ruth's life in Moab. It takes us through her meeting Naomi's son, Mahlon. And their brief courtship and marriage. We walk with Ruth as she and Naomi go through the deaths of Mahlon and his brother. Their hardship in Moab before Naomi makes the decision to return to Bethlehem. As they tarry along the way towards Bethlehem, Naomi stops and tells her daughters-in-law that they need to go back to their families in Moab. One makes the choice to leave, while Ruth makes the decision to continue to accompany Naomi.

Naomi's grief over losing her sons has taken her into a state of depression and bitterness. Having already become a widow, losing her sons has become more than she can bear. She doesn't want Ruth to continue to Bethlehem with her, but agrees after hearing Ruth's passionate response. Ruth knows that her life in Moab will not bring happiness. Naomi and her family had brought Ruth much joy to her life that she had never before experienced from her own family. As she spent more time with them and in her marriage to Mahlon, she turned away from the gods of the Moabites and accepted the God of the Israelites. She no longer to look upon the human sacrifices of the Moabite religion without feeling horror. In her heart, she had fully converted to the faith of the Israelites.

Ruth knew that by going to Bethlehem, she would be sacrificing any hope of having a marriage and children. She knew that the people there would likely never accept her. It was her love and devotion to Naomi, the woman she referred to as her true mother, that caused her to set aside any unease over the future.

Once in Bethlehem, live was a struggle for Ruth. Naomi was still battling depression and the sight of her old home set Naomi further into her withdrawal from life around her. It would take prayer and much work on Ruth's part to bring peace to Naomi. During this time, they were very poor. As was custom of the Israelite lifestyle, Ruth was able to go to the fields and glean from the harvested grain left behind from the threshers. This was a custom to help provide for the poor and destitute in their community. Each day, the women would go to the fields and gather the stalks of barley or wheat to take home. This was their way of providing food for their families.

Boaz, a wealthy land owner and relative to Naomi's late husband, allowed Ruth to glean from his fields. He took pity on her and offered protection as well as made certain that she was allowed to gather ample amounts of harvest to support her and Naomi through the upcoming winter. Boaz' attraction to Ruth was not welcome in the beginning. He was a widower and still mourned the loss of his wife & children. Being a man of stature in the community, he also was hesitant with pursuing Ruth due to her being from Moab.

Throughout the story, you begin to get a more personal look at what the lives and Ruth and Boaz was like. What did it take for him to overcome the prejudice that Israelites had towards Moabites and decide to take Ruth as a wife? We get a glimpse at the personal struggles that Ruth went through in having to step far out of her comfort zone to go to Boaz when slept at the threshing floor and offer herself to him.

The story then takes you through the first portion of their marriage until after the birth of their son, Obed. In the story, Ruth and Boaz each faced great personal struggles during that time. Overall, the story is a sweet one that adds layers of depth to the story of Ruth. I would not encourage people to look upon this story as a Biblical representation of the events, but the overall feel of the story is well done. Though the author does give a long representation in the end of her resources, I have not read each one personally. For that reason, I make that disclaimer. I did thoroughly enjoy the story though. It makes the story of Ruth much more personal and thus gives it deeper meaning.  

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