A Better Understanding of a Familiar Story
One of the most well-known and loved stories of Jesus's ministry is the encounter with the Samaritan woman at Jacob's well. Now the creative mind of Diana Wallis Taylor imagines how the Samaritan woman got there in the first place. Marah is just a girl of thirteen when her life is set on a path that will eventually lead her to a life-changing encounter with the Messiah. But before that momentous meeting she must traverse through times of love lost and found, cruel and manipulative men, and gossiping women. This creative and accurate portrayal of life in the time of Jesus opens a window into a fascinating world. Taylor's rich descriptions of the landscapes, lifestyles, and rituals mesh easily with the emotional and very personal story of one woman trying to make a life out of what fate seems to throw at her. This exciting and heartwrenching story will fascinate readers and lend new life to a familiar story.
I don't know if it's because this was ingrained in me from years of Sunday School, but my impression of the woman at the well was always negative. I mean, she had five husbands so to my childhood mind back then, anyone who had five husbands couldn't be good! For some reason, I never thought of her situation to be not her fault. I mean seriously, why did becoming a widow, abandonment or abuse never get brought up at all in Sunday School? Reading this book put that story in a totally different light and helped me to understand her a whole lot better.
I felt so sorry for Marah throughout the book. To be forced to marry at the age of 13 is just unthinkable. You're barely out of your childhood and then forced to become a married woman. Her aunt was NOT a nice character so it was good that she had Hannah as a surrogate mother to help her out throughout the years. Each man that she ends up with brings other joy or unhappiness for Marah. However with each husband, we see how she is able to adapt and begin a new life for herself, no matter how much heartbreak or sorrow she had felt before. I don't think I could have been as strong as she had been and I admired her greatly for it. The situation with Shimei was rather interesting. The issue mostly likely did happen back during that time period but it would have been taboo and never brought up in polite society. It was totally unexpected to read in the book but it does shed light on the lives of people during that time.
Taylor does her research for this book and it's a wonderful blend of history, Biblical fact, and a page turning story. If you're a Biblical fiction fan, you will enjoy this book for its rich storytelling and descriptive narrative. If you're not a fan of Biblical fiction because you think that it's sacrilegious to add things to the Bible, you will still enjoy this book. Everything from the scene at the well is included in this story keeping that whole passage intact. What Taylor does though, is draw out the story and helps you to understand what exactly Marah was going through and why she became a believer.
It's one of the best Biblical fiction novels I've read this year and I hope to read more of Taylor's works in the future. HIGHLY recommended.
Journey to the Well by Diana Wallis Taylor is published by Revell (2009)