Purple. The foundation of an influential trade in a Roman world dominated by men. One woman rises up to take the reins of success in an incredible journey of courage, grit, and friendship. And along the way, she changes the world.
But before she was Lydia, the seller of purple, she was simply a merchant’s daughter who loved three things: her father, her ancestral home, and making dye. Then unbearable betrayal robs her of nearly everything.
With only her father’s secret formulas left, Lydia flees to Philippi and struggles to establish her business on her own. Determination and serendipitous acquaintances—along with her father’s precious dye—help her become one of the city’s preeminent merchants. But fear lingers in every shadow, until Lydia meets the apostle Paul and hears his message of hope, becoming his first European convert. Still, Lydia can’t outrun her secrets forever, and when past and present collide, she must either stand firm and trust in her fledgling faith or succumb to the fear that has ruled her life.
I really enjoyed the first novel I read by Tessa Afshar, so I’m looking forward to her characterization of Lydia.
What do we know about Lydia? Her story is encapsulated in just three verses in the 16th chapter of the Book of Acts. She’s described as a seller of purple, from the city of Thyatira. When she met Paul, she was in Philippi. She must have doing reasonably well in her business, enough that the home to which she invites Paul is described as being hers. In Bread of Angels, Afshar paints a vivid picture of life in Philippi during Lydia’s time and includes a varied cast of characters, from Roman generals to slaves.
The tale opens with a prologue set in AD51. Lydia is writing a letter in her mind and two sentences immediately spoke to me. “How laughable our plans sometimes seem in the light of eternity. How blessed when they are destroyed.” People who know me have often heard me groan when plans don’t go as they should. How often I’ve had to remind myself about God being in control. The narrative then takes the reader back to AD25 and we are formally introduced to Lydia, the motherless daughter of a well-known purple merchant. An injury to her father causes Lydia to meet a Roman citizen who seemingly takes a shine to her. Knowing from the overview that Lydia was to face betrayal, I felt a sinking in my stomach when his mother offered to financially assist Lydia and her father.
The overriding theme of Bread of Angels is about placing your full confidence in God and trusting in Him to provide. Lydia learns to see His provision daily, not just for her but for those around her. Her guide is a young Jewish woman named Rebekah and, it is through her, that Lydia becomes the Godfearer she’s described as in Acts. The title comes from a description of the manna God provided during the Exodus after the Hebrews complained of hunger. He gave them the manna, but they had to look to Him to provide it. In the New Testament, Jesus spoke of it as being “that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” He then went on to say that he was the bread of life, which Lydia ultimately received when she met Paul.
Thank you to Tyndale and the Tyndale Blog Network for my complimentary copy of Bread of Angels, which I received in exchange for my honest review.
Have you read Bread of Angels? Do you plan to read it? Let me know your thoughts.
Publication Date: 06 June 2017
Page Count: 416