Maryam is stuck in an abusive marriage, living with her in-laws in a conservative, toxically religious village. A few years back, her father was given a jar of priceless perfume by a dying leper and it seemed as if their fortunes would improve, but then Maryam’s father contracted leprosy and was exiled from the village. Maryam and her siblings, Eleazar and Marta, experience the shame and ostracism this brings. The precious jar that was meant to bring them freedom has only brought destruction. But rumors abound concerning a new doctor; perhaps hope is on the horizon…
This had such an intriguing description that I just had to read this debut work of fiction.
Alabaster begins ominously with a young woman experiencing an earthquake and its aftermath. We learn immediately that she’s treated like a slave by her husband’s family, is a mere 15 years of age, and has an older sister who lives alone. While the earthquake has caused some damage in the village, and a nearby family has suffered a fatality, Maryam is relieved to find that her family’s most precious possession has survived. From there, the first person narrative goes back to the time when Maryam and her father came across a dying leper in their olive grove. Her father’s choice of grace over Mosaic Law came from a good heart, but when he paid for it later the family was plunged into shame. The story continues to go back and forth in time, which I found confusing until I realized that the tense changed with each switch.
Aslan’s debut work of fiction has some wonderful moments. When the sisters learn they’re to host an important visitor you can feel the excitement. When a woman is found guilty of adultery and the sentence is carried out you understand her mother’s pain. I had read three-quarters of the book when I came upon a scene I immediately recognized. I don’t want to give anything away, but at that point I realized who the sisters were and I looked at them differently from then on. Other familiar scenes followed. I read Alabaster during Holy Week and found it to be a very appropriate tale. Overall, I loved reading this novel, found it far too short, and am looking forward to its follow-up whenever it’s released.
Thank you to Kregel for my complimentary copy of Alabaster, which I received in exchange for my honest review.
Have you read Alabaster? Do you plan to read it? Let me know your thoughts.
Publisher: Kregel Publications
Publication Date: 27 March 2017
Page Count: 208