Tessa Afshar. Harvest of Gold. Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2013. See here to buy the book.
Harvest of Gold is the sequel to Harvest of Rubies. Both books are about Sarah, a Jewish scribe in Persia, who is the cousin of the biblical Nehemiah and is married to the cold (yet moral) Persian aristocrat Darius. Whereas Harvest of Rubies is written in a first-person narration, from the perspective of Sarah, Harvest of Gold is written in the third person. It looks into the thoughts and feelings of Sarah, Darius, and Nehemiah.
It seemed to me that there was a lot more going on in Harvest of Gold than in Harvest of Rubies. In Harvest of Gold, Darius tries to solve a mystery of who is trying to kill the king of Persia. Nehemiah leaves his comfortable position as the Persian king’s adviser and goes to Palestine to help the post-exilic Jews rebuild. Sarah hides her pregnancy from Darius. And Darius identifies the roots of his coldness. While a lot of authors would probably confuse me with so many stories going on in the same book, Tessa Afshar executes her narrative in a competent and engaging manner. Harvest of Gold seemed to me to have more humor in it than Harvest of Rubies, which made the characters more likeable and human, and the stories more enjoyable. Afshar also included in Harvest of Gold some elements that were particularly endearing to me, such as the Babylonian who had learned martial arts! The debate about polytheism, dualism, and monotheism, as well as Nehemiah’s statements about continually falling down and getting back up, and the difficulty of recovering from trauma, also deserve honorable mention.
As in Harvest of Rubies, Afshar put a lot of research into Harvest of Gold. She mentions Persian customs, as well as tells readers the ancient historians whom she consulted in writing her book. She even says that she spoke to a rabbi one afternoon to learn a Jewish perspective on the Book of Nehemiah! Overall, though, the book does seem to reflect a twenty-first century evangelical perspective, only without Jesus, who, in the book’s setting, had not come to earth yet. Darius turns to the Jewish God to find healing from his past and to get the spiritual tools that he needs to become a kinder person. The people of Israel, and even some foreigners, are convicted when they hear the Torah, as they hunger and thirst for a righteousness that is above them. Some of this probably overlaps with the Hebrew Bible’s own themes, whereas some might not so much.
Overall, I enjoyed this book. I actually liked it better than Harvest of Rubies!
Moody Press sent me a complimentary review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.