A lengthy drought has destroyed the crops of Jericho, leaving many families struggling to survive. Fifteen-year-old Rahab has worked to exhaustion each day on an empty stomach, trying to get something to grow on her father’s parched land. Her efforts, like those of the rest of her family, have been in vain. When she hears her parents refer to her as their “only hope,” Rahab cringes in terror, hoping she is wrong about the meaning of their words. Her worst fears are realized with painful clarity when her father discloses his plan. In that moment, Rahab’s future goes up in smoke. Her dreams of having a husband and family of her own will be replaced with a life of prostitution. As her father brings her to her first client, Rahab is convinced she will spend her life as something dirty, damaged and unlovable. But when God reveals himself to Rahab and blesses her with a powerful man of faith, she learns that she is like a PEARL IN THE SAND, always precious to the One who created her.
During the years following her defilement, Rahab establishes herself as a “different” kind of harlot. She carefully chooses her customers, dresses as a respectable woman, provides for her family and purchases an Inn built into Jericho’s thick walls. Unlike most of Jericho’s citizens, she wants nothing to do with the gods they worship. She has seen countless human sacrifices, including her own baby nephew, as well as the prostitution that goes on in the temples. Something in her soul tells her these things are wrong --- these gods cannot be real.
When news starts spreading about the Israelites conquering cities throughout Canaan, Rahab knows Jericho is doomed. She begins to take an interest in the God of the Israelites as she hears bits and pieces from her customers. A simple prayer to the one true God brings her a sense of peace she’s never known. When two Israeli spies come to Jericho, she is moved to protect and hide them. They repay her by sparing Rahab and her family when Jericho’s walls crumble and the city is burned to the ground. Living with the Israelites, Rahab and her family become believers in the God of Israel. But there is more to life with the Israelites than learning their ways. There is Salmone, Joshua’s right hand man. And something about this foreigner stirs a feeling in Rahab’s heart she’s never felt before.
Strong and handsome, solid in his faith, Salmone is against Rahab and her family joining with the Israelites. They are Canaanites, and worse, she is a prostitute. He doesn’t trust them or have time to be teaching them the Israelite ways. But Salmone quickly discovers that Rahab’s outer beauty is exceeded only by her surprising faith and intelligence. Despite his best efforts, he is irrepressibly drawn to this intriguing stranger.
Stormy from their first encounter, Rahab and Salmone’s relationship leads to a rocky marriage. The wounds of Rahab’s past left scars that have built walls around her heart. Fear of rejection and feelings of unworthiness strengthen those walls, but Salmone persists. If God led him to knock down the walls of Jericho, surely He can crush the walls around Rahab’s heart.
PEARL IN THE SAND is rich in historic detail, packed with page-turning action and abounding with emotion. It is a love story between a man and woman, but more than that, it is the journey of a broken soul who discovers healing and forgiveness in the arms of the one true God.
Author Tessa Afshar succeeds in drawing the reader back to the time when the Israelites were ending their 40 years of wandering. Her impressive attention to detail is reflected in every sentence as she seamlessly weaves her research into this compelling novel. If you like Biblical fiction, this is a must read!
Reviewed by Susan Miura on September 1, 2010