The Well is so much bigger than a love story. Mara is the daughter of the outcast “Woman at the Well” who meets Jesus in John chapter 4. Mara has tried to keep her little family together as her mother’s struggle with depression causes her to act foolishly and bring shame on the family until the day she meets Jesus. Shem is a spoiled brat from a wealthy Hellenized family in Caesarea. Exiled by his father for putting the family at risk by fighting Roman injustice, Shem finds more than he bargained for in Sychar. Not only does he fall for this beautiful girl, but she leads him to the Taheb—the Restorer for whom faithful Samaritans have waited for hundreds of years. Shem is a cynic. Changing his mind about Jesus will change everything.
Landsem’s story is incredibly well researched. She writes a blog full of fascinating historical information from the period. Her powerful writing makes readers feel like they are experiencing first century life. I remember Stephanie being concerned about putting words in Jesus's mouth, but she does a beautiful job of weaving things he said elsewhere in the Bible into the context of her story. Her characters are like us in their complicated motivations and frailties. We desperately want them ride off into the sunset to live happily ever after.
The ending left me sobbing, not for two human lovers, but for the much bigger, richer story that Landsem evokes of the Lover of my soul who invites you and me to participate in his grand Restoration plan. That love story can cost everything. But then it cost Jesus his life. He considered his plan worth it.
This is Stephanie’s debut novel. I can’t wait to see what her profound faith, meticulous research and superb storytelling skills will bring us next. I’m sure it will be more than a story. It will be something to shake how we think about our faith.
LeAnne Hardy has lived in six countries on four continents. Her books come out of her cross-cultural experiences and her passion to use story to convey spiritual truths in a form that will permeate lives.
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