Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Summer Book Club! The Well, Part 1...

Well HELLO there, friends! Good to be with you on this book club Wednesday. This is the first part in an 8 part series, as we read The Well, by Stephanie Landsem. This is the first book in the Living Water Series, which take events and people from the Scriptures, and draw them out into full length fictional stories. This book in the series chronicles the journey of the woman at the well, from the Gospel of John. Today in part 1 of our book club posts, we'll be discussing chapters 1 - 4. *beams*

All right, SO, I'll be honest right from the outset and admit that this is not the book I voted for in our poll. :0 I loved the premise, loved that it was based on Scripture, and that this book had come highly recommended from my best gal pal Cristina. It absolutely deserved a spot on our voting list, but I tend to gravitate towards lighter, contemporary fiction. Thus, naturally, I voted for the cat in the library mystery book. 😂

So I started this book unsure of how my impression would turn out. I was worried that it might contain heavy material I wouldn't enjoy reading as much. That being said, I demolished the first 4 chapters lickety split, and while the setting is certainly not "light," it is quite thought-provoking, and the story is paced very well.

We have 2 main characters at the outset. Mara, our intended woman at the well, and Shem, a boy from a wealthy family who is going to be sent to Sychar, Mara's Samaritan village, due to an altercation he has with a Roman soldier in his hometown. Indeed, there are some things that happen early in the book that make a person wince. Mara's sweet little brother Asher, whom it sounds like was born with clubfoot, is seen as being punished for "sins" given his medical condition. The perception is that they are the sins of his mother, who is estranged from his father. Mara also knows that her mother is engaging in inappropriate activity with another man, and she is desperately trying to hide this information from the rest of the village, who would shun the family if they found out, and cut off their limited food supply.

Mara is bearing all of this emotional burden, plus the women of the village aren't treating her very nicely, seeing her as being less than them given her dire financial situation. Her mother, who rarely gets out of bed, is obviously suffering from a severe case of depression, but of course no one knew what to do about that back then. My heart just broke for the family.

Then we have Shem, who is injured by a Roman soldier while trying to protect a woman from the soldier's unwanted advances. Another wince worthy moment. Women are not treated or seen very highly in this society, and it is difficult to read about. Shem is sent away by his father, to protect him from a death sentence by the Roman soldiers, though his father isn't exactly sympathetic about the whole situation. But the scene with Shem's escape from his village over to Sychar was quite compelling.

These first 4 chapters certainly grabbed me. I read them all in a single sitting. I found the story intriguing, and the characters very relatable. I'm curious to see where the story is headed once Shem reaches Sychar, and I'm assuming, meets Mara.

What did you all think of chapters 1 - 4? Next week we'll move on to chapters 5 - 8!

11 comments:

  1. The "your child is punished for your sins" was old Jewish thought. I remember it from the blind man that Jesus heals in the Gospels. The observers ask what the man's sins were or rather what sins his parents committed that he bears as a result. Jesus basically says that people born with disabilities aren't born that way because of their (or anyone else's) personal sins. I think the author is pulling that idea from the Gospel.

    There are some circles that still believe that a child born with disabilities is born that way because of some fault of their parent. I haven't heard it so much in Catholic circles (praise the Lord, because it would take a whole lot of temperance and patience on my part not to go off on someone from Church). But it does run in other Christian circles particularly those of the whole "prosperity" Gospel persuasion.

    As a parent with a disabled child myself I hope (crosses fingers) that the author uses this character's disability as a teaching moment against the "prosperity" Gospel. People born with disabilities aren't being punished nor are they punishments. I don't know the mind of God, but I hazard to guess that people with disabilities are there as teaching tools to us. Some of the most holy people have had to deal with the most horrendous physical issues. Yet they are holy.

    HB having autism has certainly taught me not to make assumptions about people. The person next to me may have an invisible disability so I need to be more patient and kind. Same with parents dealing with unruly children. You can't assume that what appears as a tantrum is really a tantrum. It may be a child who is overwhelmed. HB's made me a better a person so to me he's a blessing. And it'd be futile for anyone to try and convince me that his disability is anything but a blessing.

    I think in deep in Mara's heart she realizes that too. She's just angry and scared. But she loves her brother. It's obvious based on her interactions with him.

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    1. Delta,

      I completely agree. It was hard to read about how the precious little boy was thought of and treated as a result of a condition totally outside of anyone's control. Your perspective on this, given your experience with dear HB, is so valuable! I believe Mara and that one nice older woman understand this. They just want to protect Asher from those who don't.

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  2. Lol my perception of this book matches yours and I too voted for the cat mystery. However, I got this book from the llibrary to give it a try. My sister recently found a breast tumor and started treatment. As her driver, I took this book along and sipped through the first four chapters. Mara grabbed me in this difficult time and I could feel her emotions. Am quite happy with the start even though it's not my usual choice.

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    1. Hi Donna! Oh wow, I'm so grateful that you're reading along with us. We will lift your sister up in prayer. That's exactly my thoughts on the book - it's not what I would usually pick, but I'm glad we're trying it, and I think we will learn a lot from it. I'm looking forward to the next 4 chapters!

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  3. I actually voted for this book because the story at The Well has always intrigued me. I've always felt bad for the woman in the bible story. I tend to be a slow reader and was very surprised how fast I was able to read the chapters. I'm really enjoying the book so far.

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    1. Beth Anne, right?! I'm reading it really fast too. It's paced quite well. And at this point, I've actually read chapters 5-8, and oh boy. It gets better and better!

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  4. I've enjoyed the story so far. I was struck by Mara's name. Mara means bitter and I've been thinking about how this could describe her life/what the people in town think of her/her life. I expected this to be told from the viewpoint of the woman at the well but it appears to be told by her daughter. Looking forward to how this plays out.

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    1. Melanie,

      Oh wow, of course. I haven't revisited the Scripture story in a bit, and just hadn't thought out of my little box that Mara must be the woman in question. Excellent!

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    2. Yeah I kind of figured that the Mother was the Woman at the Well. But I often perceive characters wrong when I read books. HA. But apparently I didn't read the about this book very closely either.

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  5. Got a late start on "The Well", but caught up on chapters 1-4 yesterday. It's a quick read and really good so far. Quite a bit darker than I was expecting -- life seems pretty bleak for both Mara and Shem. Not to mention the struggles that Nava and Asher face. The line that really struck me was Leah's comment that charity in Sychar is often worn-out sandals and rancid oil. Hopefully Mara and her family will soon get the help they so desperately need. Looking forward to seeing how the story develops in the next four chapters.

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    1. Hi Kevin! So glad you got started! Indeed, life was hard back then, especially if your family was not well off. And the issues for women, yikes! I *just* finished chapters 5-8, and looking forward to writing about them on Wednesday, because things are really getting interesting!

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