Monday, June 3, 2013

The Well by Stephanie Landsem

Title:  The Well
Author:  Stephanie Landsem
Pages:  284
Year:  2013
Publisher:  Howard Books
                The Well is an intriguing story that is set in biblical times in the Samaritan village of Sychar.  Mara has been taking care of herself, her sick mother and her crippled brother since she was eight years old.  She cooks, cleans, plants a vegetable garden and tends it, gets water, raises goats, weaves wool into thread to barter for food and much more.  She is now of marriageable age, but knows no one in the village will want to marry such a poor girl with a lame brother and scandalous mother to take care of as well.  Her mother, Nava, has been married five times and currently “entertains” a pagan from a nearby town some evenings.  Mara lives in fear that the people of Sychar will find out about her mother’s visitor and stop their charitable donations to her family so they will starve to death or exile them from the village.  Mara has lived with persecution because of her mother’s deeds all her life, but most of the people have still tried to help out she and her brother when they could.  What will happen when they find out about her mother’s latest goings on?  Will she be forced to marry a shepherd old enough to be her grandfather in order to provide food for her brother and mother?
                Nava is still beautiful at age 30.  She, however, does nothing to take care of her children.  She sleeps most of the day and when she is awake just sits and stares at the wall.  She has been like this since the birth of her lame son, Asher.  She begins to think her children would be better off without her.  One day when they are visiting her sister, she forces herself off of her pallet and walks to the city well.  She is almost to the point of throwing herself into the well, which would make it ceremonially unclean and force the villagers to walk quite a distance for water and in her mind, is just revenge for how they have treated her and her children.  Just as she is poised over the lip of the well, a man asks her for a drink of water.  She is surprised and astonished enough at this man talking to a Samaritan woman that she complies with his request.  Soon they have a conversation that will change her life.
                Shem arrives in town as a spoiled, rich, young man to stay with his maternal grandfather until the trouble he created in Caesarea blows over.  His grandfather thinks he is there to learn about the olive farming business so his grandfather will have a male heir to take over when he dies.  Shem only plans to be there a few months, but says nothing about this to his grandfather.  Shem has always had a tender spot for the underdog and jumps in without thinking to defend the downtrodden.  He rescues Mara from some village youths and thus begins their friendship.  Will it develop into something more?  When the most difficult decision of his life has to be made, can Shem release his vengeance and give his whole heart and soul to Jesus?  Can Mara, who has come to believe fully Jesus is who he claims to be, do what is best for everyone with the choice she must make?
                This is just a wonderful story of self-sacrifice, total surrender to God, journeys taken and lives forever changed.  The depths of the character development are compelling.  I found it fascinating to think about the different aspects of this story, the historical accuracy and events as well as “what might have been”.  I would recommend reading this very entertaining story, and I’m looking forward to the author’s next book, Siloam.
My rating is 4 stars.
Note:  I received a complimentary copy for an honest review of this book.  The opinions shared in this review are solely my responsibility.  Other reviews can be read at .  Also follow me on Twitter @lcjohnson1988, FaceBook at

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