For the women of the Samaritan village of Sychar, the well is a place of blessing—the place where they gather to draw their water and share their lives—but not for Mara and her family. Shunned for the many sins of her mother, Mara struggles against the constant threats of starvation or exile.
But Mara and her mother, Nava’s lives are forever changed with the arrival of two men: Shem, a mysterious and wealthy young man from Caesarea, and Jesus, a Jewish teacher. Nava is transformed by Jesus, with his talk of forgiveness, but his teachings come too late and she is stoned by the villagers for her past sins. Desperate to save her mother, Mara and Shem embark on a journey to seek Jesus’ help—a journey that brings unexpected love and hope, despite great difficulties.
The Well is the debut novel by Stephanie Landsem, but you’d be forgiven for thinking otherwise. I’ve read fiction regarding the woman at the well before, and I was curious to read this take by an unknown writer. We know little about the woman, except that she was a Samaritan with a dubious past. Who was she? What was her past? What happened to her after her encounter with Jesus? With so little known, there is freedom to create a fascinating story. But how similar would this version be to the others already out there?
The answer is, not much. Landsem has taken a different direction from the norm. Her focus is not so much on the woman but on those around her. How did her actions impact her family? Was it still possible for them to love her despite having had five husbands and then a relationship with a sixth man? How did the Samaritan community regard her and her family? Did her sins mean her family was also forsaken and treated like outcasts? How did they react when she came into the village talking of having met a man who knew everything about her? Did they believe her? And what did they think about the Jewish man who had spoken so freely with her?
In The Well, Landsem responds to these questions with a beautifully detailed narrative. The first half of the book details the life Mara has in Sychar and her interactions with the other villagers and Shem, who is a newcomer. The second half is about the journey Mara makes to find Jesus. She believes he can heal her mother’s horrific injuries. Shem accompanies her, only because he is looking to atone for his only trouble. He doesn’t believe Jesus is who he says he is, but he wants a way for Nava’s accusers to pay for their actions. When they finally catch up with Jesus, however, it is Shem who receives a message from the Nazarene. What will it take for Shem to listen and believe? The striking final chapters and epilogue give us the incredible answer.
Thank you to Howard Books for my free copy of The Well, which I received in exchange for an honest review.
Publisher: Howard Books
Publication Date: 04 June 2013
Page Count: 304
I loved The Well so much that I want you to have an opportunity to win a copy of it.
The necessary stuff aka ‘the fine print’
- This is only open to residents of the lower 48 states of the USA due to mailing costs.
- Book will be mailed via USPS media mail with delivery confirmation.
- Your full name and mailing address will only be used to mail your prize. After I receive confirmation of delivery that information will be deleted. It will never be given or sold to a third party.
- You must be 18 or older to enter.
- This contest runs from Tuesday, 04 June, 2013 until 11:59 EDT on Tuesday, 18 June, 2013. Entries submitted after this date will not be accepted. The winner will be announced via Twitter.
- Comments left on this post are not considered entries and will not increase your chances of winning.