In this captivating retelling of a classic biblical story, Jesus shocks the town of Bethany with Lazarus’s resurrection from the dead, leading Martha—a seemingly perfect woman trapped by the secrets of her past—to hope and a new life.
Everyone in Bethany admires Martha—the perfect Jewish woman. She feeds and clothes her loved ones, looks after the family farm, and meticulously follows every precept of the Pharisees’ strict laws. But Martha is hiding a secret. At her sister’s marriage feast, she gave her heart and her innocence to a young musician who promised to return and marry her, but instead betrayed her love and abandoned her.
Seven years later, only two people in Bethany know of Martha’s secret sin: her brother, Lazarus, and Simon, the righteous Pharisee to whom Martha is betrothed. When Lazarus falls ill, Martha is faced with a choice: send for Jesus to save her dying brother—risking the wrath of Simon who threatens to betray her—or deny Jesus’ healing power and remain trapped in her tomb of secrecy and lies.
Meanwhile, on the shores of Galilee, Isa roams the wilderness, tortured by demons and knowing only that someone is waiting for him. When he is healed by Jesus, he finds that seven years have passed since his descent into madness. Isa journeys home to Bethany only to find he is too late to win back Martha’s love. When Martha risks all to heal Lazarus, will Jesus arrive in time, or will he—like Isa—come too late?
The Tomb is unexpected, memorable and touching. Stephanie Landsem takes a few risks in the fictional retelling of Martha’s life which really pay off. Whereas the bible portrays a close friendship between Lazarus and his siblings with Jesus, the author expands this to include a kinship. Playing on the familial connection, the author paints the Bethany trio as lifelong companions of Jesus who must wrestle with His true identity as he moves into ministry. When readers entertain this connection, the struggle that unfolds is quite thought-provoking. Could you believe that someone you grew up with was the promised Messiah?
Landsem’s writing creates for her audience a heartfelt understanding and empathy for the character of Martha. She has gone beyond the usual busy-body stereotype to give Martha’s life depth and dimension within the confines of first-century culture in Bethany. In the story, Martha acts as a dutiful daughter, perfect homemaker, and an outwardly righteous woman. The spiritual lesson for the reader lies in the cost of maintaining this illusion of perfection. Between Martha’s inward dialogue and her interactions with other characters I understood that though outwardly her life was one to be envied, inwardly she felt lonely and disingenuous. Martha’s story prompted me to take a look not only at the work I do, but also at my motives for doing them.
I have a few final thoughts in regards to the overall composition of the novel. To begin, the dialog between Martha and the rest of the characters, even the unspoken interactions between Martha and her maid Penina, kept me engaged. I enjoyed the pace that the author established as well as how she used every character and conversation to draw me deeper into the message. In The Tomb, Landsem has chosen to layer a few biblical accounts over one another in unexpected ways. With the exception of the demon possessed man not returning to the Decapolis (Mark 5:20), I enjoyed the liberties she took with the timeline of the biblical accounts. Overall, The Tomb was a delightfully executed work of biblical fiction.
I received this book free from the publisher through the NetGalley review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
About the Author
Stephanie Landsem writes historical fiction because she loves adventure in far-off times and places. In real life, she’s backpacked through Germany and Eastern Europe, studied in Salzburg, enjoyed gelato in Italy, rode a camel in Morocco, and floated in the salty Corinthian Sea. Her favorite cities are Rome, Berlin and Budapest. Her travels kindle her imagination, fuel her love of history and foreign culture, and introduce her to one-of-a-kind characters.
Stephanie is equally happy at home in Minnesota with her husband of 22 years, four children, three fat cats, and a tortoise named Moe. When she’s not writing, she’s feeding the ravenous horde, volunteering at church and school, battling dandelions, and dreaming about her next adventure – whether it be in person or on the page.