I could have sworn I had read Tessa Afshar’s Pearl in the Sand, and I was really excited about it having a 10th anniversary re-release so I signed up to be on the launch team and received a beautiful complimentary paperback copy from the publisher about a week before the re-release. Imagine my surprise when I started what I thought would be a quick re-read and realized I had either never read this book before or I had completely forgotten it! I was quickly immersed in a beautiful and compelling story of love and redemption, and I really enjoyed it!
About the Book
Title: Pearl in the Sand
Author: Tessa Afshar
Publication Date: October 6, 2020
Publisher: Moody Publishers
Print Length: 416 pages
Summary from the author: Can a Canaanite harlot who made her living enticing men be a fitting wife for a leader of Israel? Shockingly, the Bible’s answer is yes.
This 10th anniversary edition of Pearl in the Sand includes new features that will invite you into the untold story of Rahab’s journey from lowly outcast to redeemed child of God. Rahab’s home is built into a wall, a wall that fortifies and protects the City of Jericho. However, other walls surround her too, walls of fear, rejection, and unworthiness… Years of pain and betrayal have wounded Rahab’s heart—she doubts whether her dreams of experiencing true love will ever come true…
A woman with a wrecked past—a man of success, of faith… of pride. A marriage only God would conceive! Through the heartaches of a stormy relationship, Rahab and Salmone learn the true source of one another’s worth and find healing in God.
I absolutely loved how Mrs. Afshar imagined Rahab and Salmone and even their family members. I loved how she portrayed the way Rahab was drawn to the God of Israel and repelled by the gods of her own people. And I loved how her family was so wholehearted in their turning from their old gods to fully worshipping the God of Israel!
My one complaint about this book is a complaint I also have about most English translations of the Bible so Mrs. Afshar is in good company. The substitution of the phrase “the Lord” in place of God’s name is a big deal to me and I found it was distracting, didn’t make a lot of sense, and took away significantly from my enjoyment of the story. While I personally use the name Yahweh, I don’t really mind what name authors and translators choose, so long as it’s a name and not a common noun that they try to turn into a name by capitalizing it. So I would have been fine with Jehovah, Yahuah, Yah, or any other variation – it just needs to be an actual name when the character is naming the god they worship. It doesn’t make sense when they try to use “the Lord” as His Name, especially when, as in this book, they use the uncapitalized term “lord” to refer to their husband, a tribal leader, and even pagan gods who are “lords” worshipped by the pagans. It drives me batty that authors are willing to use the names of pagan gods like Molech and Ba’al, both of whom were mentioned in this book quite a lot (and both of whom have names with variable spellings) but are then unwilling to use an actual name for the God of Israel! If this book had taken place after the Babylonian captivity when the Jews starting making this substitution, I would not have found it so frustrating because it would have been historically accurate, but in this context, I thought it really took away from the clarity and power of the story as well as being historically inaccurate. It was a big deal when Canaanites switched allegiance from their old “lords” to a new One, and knowing a god’s name was an important and necessary part of being able to worship.
Please forgive my long rant, but I felt I needed to explain this frustration I had with this book in order for my review to be truthful and just, especially since I decided not to take away a star from my rating and to go ahead and give it 5-stars. It really is a 5-star book for most readers. The fact that I had to treat reading it as a bit of a code and substitute “Yahweh” in my head every time a character was obviously referring to Him by name in the context of the conversation for it to make sense to me will probably not be a deal-breaker for very many other people. So, in the end, I do highly recommend this book, and I know lovers of Biblical fiction will continue to rave about it for years to come!
About the Author
Tessa Afshar is an award-winning author of historical and biblical fiction. Her novel, Land of Silence, won an INSPY award, and was voted by Library Journal as one of five top Christian Fiction titles of 2016. It was also nominated for the 2016 RT Reviewer’s Choice Award for best Inspirational Romance. Harvest of Gold won the prestigious 2014 Christy Award in the Historical Romance category. Her book, Harvest of Rubies was a finalist for the 2013 ECPA Book Award in the fiction category. Her first novel, Pearl in the Sand, won her “New Author of the Year” by the Family Fiction sponsored Reader’s Choice Awards 2011. Tessa was born in Iran and lived there for the first fourteen years of her life. She moved to England where she survived boarding school for girls and fell in love with Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte, before moving to the United States permanently. Her conversion to Christianity in her twenties changed the course of her life forever. Tessa holds an MDiv from Yale University where she served as co-chair of the Evangelical Fellowship at the Divinity School. She serves on the staff of one of the oldest churches in America. But that has not cured her from being addicted to chocolate.