Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Summer Book Club! The Well, Part 8...


It's the end of our Summer Book Club, and this Catholic librarian is feeling a bit emotional. It doesn't help that my kids are on a short overnight trip with their grandparents to a water park, and I'm all weepy about THAT, too.


My lucky husband. ;-)

But let's get down to business! The final segment in our Summer Book Club for 2017 is about to begin...grab your beverage!

All right, so we pick up with Shem and Mara on the run. They had met Mary, and are on their way back to Sychar, but with Mara trying to convince Shem that he must heed Jesus's call to follow Him. Shem, unlike Mara, is still very much unconvinced that Jesus is the Chosen One they've been waiting for. As Shem and Mara travel, they continue to grow in affection for each other. Shem decides that upon their return to Sychar, he will ask Mara to marry him.

When they return, they are happened upon by the roving band of bitter men that are always causing trouble in Sychar, i.e. Zevulun and his minions. 😒  They immediately accuse Mara of being just like her mother. Shem and Mara of course rightly deny this, but reason and honesty play no role with Zevulun. He drags them to the temple, where Mara is publicly accused of untoward behavior outside of marriage. Shem isn't too worried, because the punishment for this when both parties are unmarried is for them to get married. This is what they both want anyway. Right?

Mara does want this. But she feels deep in her heart that it would be wrong to prevent Shem from following Jesus the way he was asked to. She denies him her hand so that he will be free to follow Jesus's invitation.

Shem is devastated. This is a *very* powerful scene. 😢 And apparently, they now have to ask any of the other unmarried village men if THEY will marry Mara. If none of them will, she will be stoned.


Shem is still begging Mara to marry him when Enosh steps forward. And so Deltaflute and Melanie were correct!

Enosh wants to marry Mara, AND he defends her good name in front of everybody, saying that he will pay a full dowry for her hand in marriage, though in this situation, it is not required (as a way to further humiliate the woman in question). Enosh loves her. Though Mara hadn't seen Enosh in a romantic light as of yet, she is very fond of him, and knows that he will be good to her. She believes that she will only continue to grow in her feelings for him, and so she accepts. They are betrothed on the spot, and Mara consents to a one day betrothal as a sign of good will towards Enosh's kindness and generosity to her.

While all of this is happening, Nava walks in. Not only is she healed, but so is Asher! His club foot has completely disappeared.

Shem is in disbelief, but Mara's dramatic actions, and Nava and Asher's healing, have a deep effect on him. For Mara to be so convinced that he must follow Jesus, it drives the point home to Shem that there is something special about Jesus. He has a change of heart and realizes that he wants to do as Jesus has asked. He will go to Jerusalem.

He and Mara have a painful goodbye. He knows that Enosh will take good care of her, Nava and Asher, but his heart is broken that he cannot be with her as he wishes. Mara is also crushed, but still optimistic as her wedding day dawns.

In the epilogue, our worst fears are confirmed: Shem goes to Jerusalem to do the Lord's work, and is stoned by an angry mob. He isn't afraid, knowing that he will be going to his eternal home with Jesus.

Holy smokes. This was powerful. I have to admit, even though I know how this story has to end, I felt frustrated with Mara for not just agreeing to become betrothed to Shem during that dramatic scene in the temple. Surely, saving herself from stoning and being able to be there to take care of Asher, and making a family with Shem, would be a good and holy thing! Even with my firm faith in our Lord, I struggled with this! Her faith is an inspiration to me.

And that moment with Nava and Asher walk in! *swoons* I had tears in my eyes.

My take-away on the love story is that Mara will grow to love Enosh romantically, and that the first tentative steps in that direction have already been taken emotionally. Plus, she trusts him and he makes her feel secure. She knows that he will make her happy. This gives me a warm and fuzzy.

All right, I NEED all of your thoughts now! I *cannot wait* to read the next two books in this series with you all!


  1. What a great book! I'm amazed that some commenters were able to predict Mara + Enosh because up until last week's reading I really didn't see that coming. I feel like most of the characters ended up in a pretty good place -- Enosh being able to stand up and profess his true feelings for Mara, Nava and Asher miraculously healed and now able to live lives that didn't seem possible at the beginning of the book, and Mara making a strong show of her faith in Jesus and now having a future with a stable and loving man (even if it isn't her first choice). Even Shem/Stephen has found his true calling and will go on to be an inspiration for many, albeit with a tragic ending. Mostly I'd like to thank Tiffany and all the other readers because I really learned a lot from everyone else's comments and viewpoints!

    1. Kevin,

      This is a lovely summary! I agree with everything you said. Maybe the Enosh intuition was a woman thing - we tend to pick up on those sorts of things, for whatever reason. :0

  2. I think Mara's sacrifice is similar to those girlfriends/fiances who find themselves having to let their boyfriends/fiances go into the seminary (or in the abbey or the cloister etc). You know in your heart of hearts that they having a different calling. I personally have never experienced this, but I have read about many who have. I imagine that that what it is like for Mara and Shem.

    I also don't believe that Enosh is some sort of throw away catch either. He's worked hard his whole life because he wanted to earn Mara (and not necessarily in a property sort of way either). Mara may not feel romantic feelings now but probably true love feelings in the end. This I can relate more to. I met my husband after being in a relationship that I was happy with (but the other person wasn't). I didn't think much about Hubby at the time we first started dating. We didn't have any common interests. However we were both committed to marriage and family and that was what motivated us both. After a few dates things were better. The previous relationship didn't have marriage and family as a foundation (at least not for him) and despite having many similar interests and enjoying each other's company fell apart. I think it is the same for Mara and Enosh. They have the same foundation and vocation. It will work. Shem was always called to a different path.

    The miracles thing was awesome, but at the same time, I feel torn about it. Most people do not have miracles happen to them (at least not that dramatically obvious). I suppose the lepers are a prime example of that. They aren't healed in our story. We have to learn to love and appreciate people despite their health and wellbeing. They still contribute to society. They still matter. And the lepers I think proved that by repaying Shem for his kindness. So I think the lepers are what resonates with me more than Nava and Asher's healing.

    My son won't be "healed" and I'm okay with that. I'm not okay with people not accepting him for who he is. Finding a cure for him is a road fraught with issues and I'm not sure that there's anything more broken about him that is not broken in any one else. We should work on healing ourselves before trying to fix those we think less of, in other words. This isn't to say we should ignore ethical scientific break throughs. It's just to say that we need a balance. What is the motivation behind the cure. Would I like HB to have an easier time in life? Sure. But I'm not so sure it's him that's the broken one. I think it's how society negatively views people with disabilities that is broken. You won't cure that by finding some sort of hypothetical magic pill that cures or prevents autism.

    1. Delta,

      I totall get it. I think that when it comes to suffering, this is a tough thing - why are some people healed and others not? It certainly doesn't mean God is playing favorites, but it's definitely confusing to our human natures. In this case, with Asher, the way that he was seen due to his disability was so unfair, and this resolution would make those cruel villagers not take responsibility for their words and actions. That's disheartening, in my mind. THEY should have to change, not him.

      Outstanding point about the lepers, and I meant to mention them! I loved their story in the book, but again, the lack of mercy shown to them is abhorrent. Obviously God loves them, but their lack of care and healing is painful to behold.

  3. The chapters were fast paced and I kept reading wanting to know what would happen next. I liked how the lepers came to Shem and Mara’s rescue. I wondered if something like this might happen back when we first met them and Shem gave them money. Mara had so much courage to refuse Shem and accept punishment all to be sure Shem would go to Jerusalem. Shem’s realization that his desire for revenge was similar to Zevulun’s and wrong impressed me. How often can we spot other’s mistakes but it is hard to spot our own, even when we are making the same or similar mistakes. Enosh’s speech warmed my heart and I was glad he stood up for Mara. It is touching that he has loved her since childhood. I think Enosh, Mara and their relatives become first Christians in Sychar. I found it interesting that Mara was willing to accept stoning so that Shem would follow Jesus and then Shem accepts/dies by stoning for preaching about Jesus. I was so glad that Nava was healed and I was surprised and happy that Asher was as well.

    My copy had an interview with the author in it. I was intrigued by what she said about Shem and St. Stephen. Originally Shem was just Shem but in her research, she found out that some scholars think (based off his speech in Acts) St. Stephen “could have been a hellenzied Samaritan – a well-educated Samaritan from a Greek-speaking, cosmopolitan city, such as Caesarea.” I really like that the Shem/St. Stephen story line came out of research.

    1. Melanie,

      FASCINATING! How awesome that your copy included this interview!

      Also, excellent point about Shem's desire for revenge and Mara's recognition of that. I hadn't caught that!

  4. I was also reading this book this summer as part of the St. Teresa Online Book Club on Facebook:

    I also thought this ending was so powerful. I read the ending on a Sunday night when the Gospel reading was talking about what we give up in exchange for the kingdom of God, including: Jesus said to his disciples:
    "The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field,
    which a person finds and hides again,
    and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. .

    Mara really resonated with me in light of this Gospel. Like you, it tugged at my heart that she was able to respond as she did for the sake of not being an obstacle to someone else aligning their life to God's will, even when it meant her own heart was breaking or that she might die in the process.

    I also had questions on my mind about strength and courage to act in a similar way. Last weekend I was at a diocesan event and our Bishop talked about St. Clare and St. Jane on their feast days. I want to look more into both of their stories as they seem to be other examples of being able to make similar decisions for the sake of making sacrifices with joy for the purpose of glorifying God by their lives.

    1. Hi Amanda! So pleased that you found us here! Excellent musings. Discernment has been on my heart for awhile now, and this book really made me think about a few thing in that regard. Mara is certainly a complex example of that. And other lives of the saints, absolutely! How did they muster that courage to do God's Will in those frightening situations? Good stuff.


Thank you for commenting! I read and appreciate every single one, and I will respond to each one personally!