Book Review: Harvest of Rubies by Tessa Afshar

The prophet Nehemiah's cousin can speak numerous languages, keep complex accounts, write on rolls of parchment and tablets of clay, and solve great mysteries. There is only one problem: she is a woman.

In her early childhood years, Sarah experienced the death of her mother and her father's subsequent emotional distance and she came to two conclusions: that God does not care about her, and that her accomplishments are the measure of her worth - the measure of her self.

Sarah, the talented scribe and cousin to Nehemiah, is catapulted into the center of the Persian court, working too many hours, rubbing elbows with royalty, and solving intrigues for the Queen. Ironically, it isn't failure but success that causes Sarah to lose her only source of external validation.

Sarah soon learns that she has something of worth to offer beyond her ability with languages and sums - her very being proves to be a blessing to others.

Release Date:  May 1, 2012
Age Group:  Adult
Publisher:  Moody Publishers
Source:  NetGalley

Tessa Afshar has written two outstanding novels: Pearl in the Sand, and now Harvest of Rubies.  Both novels are historical Christian fiction, and are more biblical than other Christian fiction, which I really like.  Pearl in the Sand tells the story of Rahab, a Caanonite harlot who falls in love with one of Israel's leaders.  I read Pearl in the Sand back in 2010 and still think back on how good that book is!  In fact, I gave it as a gift to my mom.  Then, this Mother's Day, I gave Harvest of Rubies to my mom.  She was so excited to see that Tessa Afshar had written another book!  I didn't think that I would like Harvest of Rubies more than Pearl in the Sand, but I liked it even better (and my mom agrees).

Harvest of Rubies tells the story of Sarah, who is the prophet Nehemiah's cousin.  I am foggy on the Old Testament, but the name Nehemiah did ring a bell.  I don't remember Sarah as his cousin though, which allowed me to start Harvest of Rubies with no preconceived notions of how the story should go.  I love it when I can go into a book with no expectations!

I liked Sarah from the very beginning.  She is a reader---which is very unusual for a woman in 457 B.C.---and I love to read about fellow readers.  Sarah's father is a scribe and teaches her to read and write in several languages.  Sarah's cousin is Nehemiah, who is King Artaxerxes' cupbearer.  The cupbearer is the person who tastes all of the king's food and beverages before the king, to make sure they are not poisoned.  I had thought this position to be a somewhat lowly one, but the cupbearer was actually a person of great influence and respect, due to how much time he spends in the king's presence.  Nehemiah speaks on Sarah's behalf to the queen, and as a result, Sarah becomes the chief scribe to queen Damaspia.

Sarah is a workaholic, and finds her happiness and validation in her work.  She believes in God but does not turn to Him with her problems, as she is holding a grudge of sorts for her mother's untimely death and subsequent feelings of abandonment by her father.  Her father loved her, but did not know how to raise a young girl, and his treatment of her (which pretty much consisted of leaving her to figure things out for herself) left Sarah feeling unloved and unwanted.  She has struggled with these feelings for her entire life, and thus throws herself into her work to suppress the pain of her past.  Sarah soon rises to be a highly respected and valued member of the court and it is her work ethic that ends up getting her in trouble.  Queen Damaspia rewards Sarah's loyalty and  hard work by giving Sarah an aristocratic husband.  But the last thing Sarah wants is to be taken away from her job as a scribe and to be married, especially to an aristrocrat.

But her feelings are not taken into account---how could she defy the queen?---and Sarah is married to Darius.  By her own thoughtless actions and focus on her work, she bungles the marriage right from the start, earning Darius' disdain and becoming the laughingstock of the court.  Sarah is at the lowest point in her life, having lost her work, which was her only source of validation, and has to make a choice: wallow in despair or ask God for help and try to turn the situation around.  She chooses the latter, and most of the book is about her journey to becoming a different person: a person who relies on God for validation and self-worth.  Her husband may not love her, but God does, and that has to be enough for Sarah.

What I loved so much about Harvest of Rubies was Sarah's journey.  Afshar seamlessly weaves Sarah's tale of personal growth into the setting of biblical times.  I felt like I was learning something about history and about the Scriptures as I was reading, but without feeling "preached to."  I loved watching Sarah grow and change.  I especially loved how she quotes the psalms of David for strength and guidance.  One of my favorite passages in Harvest of Rubies is:
"David knew how to walk the path of affliction while being settled firmly in the joy of God's presence.  I wanted to learn to be like David, to have eyes that saw the loving hand of the Lord even in the midst of unfulfilled dreams" (Afshar 327).
Isn't that so beautifully written?  So many times while reading, I thought, "Yes, this is exactly how I feel!"  I love that.  I felt like Afshar was really speaking to me personally.  I felt encouraged and lifted up after reading Harvest of Rubies.

Until I realized there was going to be a sequel, I was not totally thrilled with the ending.  There were certain things that were left unfinished, things I wanted to see finished.  But, I will have to wait until the next book for Sarah and Darius' story to be completed.  I can't wait to read more from Tessa Afshar.  I highly recommend Harvest of Rubies.


  1. Sounds like another winner. I adored Pearl in the Sand and MUST get this one.

  2. Books with sequels the endings always get me. I keep saying that I need to stop reading until a series is out, but I can't do it.
    Brandi from Blkosiner’s Book Blog

  3. This sounds like a great book. Thanks for the review! I'm adding it to my TBR list!


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