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.
An accomplished wordsmith, Tessa Afshar has written Bread of Angels with precision, heart, and purpose. Each well-tuned phrase, simile, and scene, serves to immerse readers into Lydia’s first-century life. I read the prologue like one might enjoy the first bite of a decadent cake, and in the same way it left me wanting more!
The book opens in Thyatira (AD 25) and moves to Philippi where it concludes in the year 50 AD. It’s in Thyatira that a great deception takes place which really sets the story into motion. I confess I was neither taken in by Jason’s affections nor duped by Dione’s scheming. This was due in part to how Lydia confessed her love for Jason, while contradicting her words by her actions.
A favorite character of mine entered the story just before Lydia heeds her father’s advice to flee to Philippi. Rebekah, an unmarried Jewess, won my affections with her gentle spirit. In time, her personal understanding of the character of God as well as her loyal friendship prepares the way for Lydia to accept the gospel. Furthermore, Afshar uses their fathers to make the beautiful, albeit stark comparison, between our earthly and Heavenly Father.
The leap to AD 50 ushers in the appearance of Paul and Silas as well as the miraculous works recounted in Acts 16. As always, Afshar handles the absolutes of scripture with respect, while using creative license to color between the lines. I am so fascinated by early church history that Lydia’s time with Paul was the portion of the story I savored the most. Bread of Angels is a compelling and satisfying work of biblical fiction.
I received a copy of this book for free, a favorable review was not required of me. All opinions expressed are my own.