Book Review: In the Field of Grace by Tessa Afshar

Two women. Alone. With no provision. Can a woman who has lost everything, except her beloved mother, find hope in a foreign land? Ruth leaves her home with  a barren womb and an empty future, after losing her husband. She forsakes her abusive parents and follows the woman she has grown to love as a true parent, her husband's mother, Naomi.

Ruth arrives in Israel with nothing to recommend her but Naomi's love. She is destitute, grief-stricken, and unwanted by the people of God. Her loftiest hope is to provide enough food to save Naomi and herself from starvation. She is reduced to gathering leftovers once the harvesters have finished collecting grain from the field. A job only for the lowest of the low.

But God has other plans for her life.

While everyone considers Ruth an unworthy outsider, Ruth is shocked to find the owner of the field-one of the wealthiest and most honored men of Judah-is showing her favor.  Long since a widower and determined to stay that way, Boaz finds himself irresistibly drawn to the foreign woman with the dark, 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.

Obstacles. Heartache. Withered dreams. How can God forge love, passion, and new hope between two such different people?
Release Date: July 1, 2014
Age Group: Adult
Source: NetGalley
Reviewed By: Kelli
I've loved Tessa Afshar's writing from her very first book, and she gets better with each book she writes!  Click the titles to read my reviews of her previous work: Pearl in the Sand, Harvest of Rubies, and Harvest of Gold.

In the Field of Grace is Ruth's story, and like her previous work, Afshar starts with the Bible's account of Ruth and then enriches the story, fleshing it out into an enthralling novel.  I love that Afshar's books center on strong women of the Bible, yet are also works of fiction, which gives her artistic license to really make their stories come to life.  The way Afshar writes these strong Biblical women is so moving and gripping.  She is my favorite historical Christian fiction writer because of the depth, emotion, and inspirational quality of her books.

The main thing that comes to mind when I think about Ruth (at least before I read In the Field of Grace) are her words to Naomi as they were about to travel to Bethlehem:

"But Ruth replied, "Don't urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God."  Ruth 1:16, NIV 

Just that quote alone gives you a glimpse of Ruth's faithfulness.  She leaves her family behind, leaves her religion behind, and all she's ever known to follow Naomi to Bethlehem.  Newly widowed, Ruth has lost everything except her love for her mother-in-law Naomi.  Ruth's goal is to keep them alive, finding food to eat in the lowest of social positions: as a gleaner in the harvest fields.  The gleaners, follow behind the field hands, collecting the pieces of wheat they have left behind.  This tradition is honored in Bethlehem for the poor and for widows who would have no other way to eat otherwise.  Throughout the harvest, Ruth encounters Boaz, the owner of the fields.  She is drawn to him but knows he wouldn't give a poor widow of no standing, a Moabite no less, a second glance.  

What I loved about In the Field of Grace was how Afshar continually surprised me throughout the story.  I thought I knew how Ruth's life would turn out, and in part I did, but I was so surprised at how she got there.  She was bold, which I loved, and faithful to God always.  I kept thinking the story would be over, and Afshar continued it much further than I'd expected, deepening the storyline and my interest in the characters.  There was so much emotion in In the Field of Grace: I found myself moved to tears several times. 

Each chapter begins with a Bible verse, which in and of itself would have been a welcome treat.  What was unique was the way Afshar molded each chapter to the verse, so that the verses were almost a summary of the chapter's emotions and events.  It's this kind of attention to detail that makes me love Afshar's writing.  Even the family lineage at the end, which I would have usually found boring, was interesting to me because I knew many of the characters depicted.  It was such a great touch and a great ending to the book: to see Ruth listed as an ancestor of Jesus. 
I never fail to learn something when reading Christian fiction, and In the Field of Grace was no exception.  Besides learning more about Ruth, this book helped me to change my thinking about several things: about how to surrender to the Lord, and about "acceptance with joy," a concept that was new to me.  I've long understood the concept about accepting your circumstances, whatever they may be, but the concept of acceptance with joy, of all things, was new to me, and quite life-changing. 
My favorite passage of In the Field of Grace is Ruth's prayer to God as she surrenders her life to Him:
"Sustain me Lord, through the best of life and the worst.  Help me cling to You.  Help me remember that although my flesh and my heart may fail, You are the strength of my heart and my portion forever.  Carry me and rescue me even when I fight You.  Overcome my struggles.  Quiet me until I become like a weaned child with his mother."

If you're a fan of Christian fiction, I highly recommend Tessa Afshar's work.  I look forward to each of her books with joyful anticipation!    

1 comment:

  1. The story of Ruth is one of my favorites in the Old Testament. From your review, I feel like I will learn more from Ruth and will be more inspired. Thanks for the review! I definitely want to read this. :)


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