“She longed to feel redeemed from all that had come before, from all of her misguided dreams, from everything that made her Moabite, to cling to the God of Israel alone.”
When famine visits Bethlehem, some hold out hope for rain, while Naomi and her family make a long journey to Moab in search of greener pastures. The harvest there is plentiful, and for a time it appears the Lord is blessing them. But when calamities strike, one after another, Naomi is left alone in a foreign land with only her widowed daughters-in-law for comfort.
Downhearted and destitute, Naomi is determined to return to Bethlehem alone. But her daughter-in-law Ruth refuses to leave her side. Despite the fact that she and Naomi will almost certainly live out their days in widowhood and poverty, Ruth holds out hope for a better future . . . and maybe even a second chance at love.
Jill Eileen Smith brings a fresh perspective to the book of Ruth through her latest work, Redeeming Grace. We learn from the Bible (Ruth 1:1-5) that Naomi, her husband, and their two sons sojourned in Moab during a famine in Israel. Smith’s decision to expand and dwell in this 10-11 year period is what sets Redeeming Grace apart from other stories written about Ruth.
The first half the book is set in Moab, allowing the author to draw a stark contrast between Israel’s God and the false god Chemosh, portray how Elimelech and his sons may have been seduced by the depravity of the Moabites, and extol the benefits of living in biblical community. In the second half, set in Bethlehem, Smith’s depth of knowledge about Old Testament law shines through Naomi’s conversations with her daughter-in-law. My current reading plan has me in Leviticus, so reading detailed explanations about ritual cleansing, the Sabbath, kinsman redeemers, and the Passover Feast in a narrative format has been both interesting and rewarding. I could see where it may weigh the story down for some, but I got a lot out of it!
To have an author as skilled as Smith pen flesh, bones, and heart to Ruth, Naomi, and Boaz was a delight. I felt she remained true to the character they display in scripture and by the end of the book I felt as if I’d walked a mile in their shoes. As it is biblical fiction, there are some characters who come from the authors imagination, of them Hamul is my favorite! His story is artfully interwoven with the overarching theme of redemption.
If you haven’t read the first two books in the Daughters of the Promised Land series, don’t fret. Due to the gaps in time between each book, this book and the others can stand alone. Redeeming Grace released February 14th from Revell which means you can start reading today!
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Many thanks Jill Eileen Smith for providing me with a review copy. All opinions are my own.