Sunday, September 16, 2012

Harvest of Rubies, by Tessa Afshar (River North)


Ancient history with a modern heart.

For some reason, I expected Biblical fiction when I downloaded Harvest of Rubies.  And sure, it touches an ancient Biblical figure (nope, you have to read it to find out who), but only as a minor character.  Instead, I found myself immersed in a tale of ancient Mesopotamia, complete with intrigue, action, and romance--in short, everything a novel like this should have.

With her love of Persian history and culture evident on every page, Ms Afshar has crafted yet another delightful story that brings to life the spirit and soul of an era long dead.  What's so great about this book, though, is that she's done so through the eyes of an unforgettable character, Sarah.  The thing about Sarah do I put this?...well, you love her to death, but you're not quite sure whether you love her as you would a wife, a daughter, a best friend, or a sister.  Yeah, I know.  Maybe it's because Ms Afshar portrays her so well in all of those roles.

Sarah is a gifted linguist and scribe, something unheard of in a woman of ancient Persia.  Her cousin (the unnamed Biblical character) gets her an interview with the queen, who just happens to be in need of a senior scribe.  Introverted, plain-looking, and self-deprecating, Sarah immerses herself in her work.  She performs very well...too well, in fact.  To thank her for a particularly insightful service, the queen arranges a marriage for Sarah to a very upstanding and promising nobleman.  Sarah passes out when the queen announces the engagement, but not out of joyful surprise as the court interprets her reaction, but out of horror as her entire world--quiet, peaceful, solitary, and intellectually fulfilling--hits the floor as hard as she does.

The description of the disastrous wedding ceremony Ms Afshar delivers is priceless; the cover price of the book is worth that scene alone.  But it's the ensuing story, after Sarah bottoms out, that she begins her journey of personal restoration and true fulfillment--not in abandoning who she is and what she loves for the sake of tradition--but in perfecting that tradition through who she is and what she loves.  Traveling with a solid cast of supporting characters, Harvest of Rubies takes us on a journey framed around a character who will live in your heart on far beyond the turn of the last page.

Captivating story, skillfully crafted, delivered with great finesse.  This is a sure bet for lovers of ancient history and personal triumph.


Jennifer Light said...

Wow! Sounds like a great read, and one I would enjoy :) I just might have to pick up this book in the next couple of weeks. Thanks for sharing!

Bruce Judisch said...

You'll enjoy it, Jenny. Tessa does a great job. :-)

Cheers! Bruce

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed it, too, Jenny. Lots of humor, too.

- Jeannie

Princess Nozi Sithole said...

I encore your words Bruce, I loved Sarah from the beginning and her story of restoration was awesome, I cried so much, loved it.

Beautiful story.

Bruce Judisch said...

Thanks for commenting! It was a touching story. Looking forward to Tessa's next one. :-)