This was one of several that caught my eye when i was looking for the Sarai book for our book club.
Author's Philosophy of FictionIf i wasn't hooked enough on Pearl in the Sand from the web description, the introductory Author's Notes finished the job.
The very first thing Afshar tells us is that the title represents literary license.
Fair warning up front. There's archaeological evidence for usage of mother of pearl at the time, but not pearl. And i don't know about you, but i agree with her that Mother of Pearl in the Sand just doesn't cut it as a title.
It's a detail. If you're of the philosophy that fiction is a lie, you'll know this isn't for you. But if you believe that fiction enrobes the bare sentences of Scripture with possibilities, not definitiveness, it's good to know just where you stand.
The rest of the intro elaborates on this, showing us:
- the Scriptures about Rahab, her husband, her times: this is what we can know.
- the Hebrew words used and their distinctions of meaning.
- what we can & can't know about the attitudes & customs of her times:
- what research shows us
- what seems reasonable beyond doubt
- what we've assumed that is our own cultural influence, not the way things were.
The Novel, and Two Others to CompareLike i've noted above, the novel-reading experience is enhanced by reading other fictions about the same people.
In years past, i've read Francine Rivers' Unashamed, in the Lineage of Grace series, and the Rahab story in
Joyce Landorf Heatherley's He Began with Eve.
i should say now that, if i enjoy a novel at all, i pretty much enjoy it uncritically. You shouldn't come to me for information on how well-written a novel is, though i can often see greater depth/realism in some books than other people seem to see.
The first difference you note before reading these is the length. At 126 pages, Unashamed is 210 pages shorter than Pearl. And, with five novellas in Lansdorf Heatherley's book, obviously her Rahab story is the shortest.
At this point i could take a great deal of text to compare all sorts of details of the stories - how Rahab got into the business, what became of her family after the fall of Jericho - but i won't deprive you the enjoyment of the actual books.
The Rest of the Story
The most striking thing, however, about Afshar's book is where the story goes.
Other stories and studies of Rahab look at her faith. They end with her acceptance into Israel., from outsider to part of God's family, sinner to hero of faith.
Faith Hero, Damaged Goods, or Both?But, aside from her profession, Rahab was damaged goods.
How did she get to that inn where we find her?
Pearl in the Sand covers more time than the other stories. It begins earlier and, when the others end with Our Heroine being happily ushered into the camp, betrothed to Our Handsome Hero and part of God's people, Pearl in the Sand has only come to the middle.
This is a lady with some issues to work through. And realistically, her husband would probably have had to come to terms with her past more than once.
What about the NEIGHBORS?
Every time the New Testament mentions her, it's like her (former) profession is part of her name. Check it out: Matthew 1:5, Hebrews 11:31, James 2:25* The past gone, but not forgotten?
If you leave her at being accepted into the camp of Israel, it's like telling a new Christian that, now you belong to Christ, all your troubles are over.
Life doesn't end at the altar.
interview with Tessa Afshar
*Here is a link to the Old Testament references to Rahab. Other references to Rahab do not refer to her.