Before she stole healing by touching the hem of his garment . . .
Elianna is a young girl crushed by guilt. After her only brother is killed while in her care, Elianna tries to earn forgiveness by working for her father’s textile trade and caring for her family. When another tragedy places Elianna in sole charge of the business, her talent for design brings enormous success, but never the absolution she longs for. As her world unravels, she breaks off her betrothal to the only man she will ever love. Then illness strikes, isolating Elianna from everyone, stripping everything she has left.
No physician can cure her. No end is in sight. Until she hears whispers of a man whose mere touch can heal. After so many years of suffering and disappointment, is it possible that one man could redeem the wounds of body . . . and soul?
The spa visit did not cure Mother. Neither did all the rest we pressed upon her. Before winter ended, she was lost to us. Joanna and I, along with Chuza, traveled hastily to Jerusalem so that we could lay her remains to rest with her husband and son according to her wishes.
I sat alone by that tomb and ached. […] How would I bear the burden of so much loss? I could not even weep anymore. It was as though my tears had dried up after too many calamities.
We returned to Tiberias that same week. The day I arrived at my new home, now empty save for Keziah and me, I started to bleed.
My body turned traitor.
It wept blood as it mourned the destruction of every love. It hemorrhaged inconsolable sorrow.
And I became unclean.
I became like Egypt with its ten plagues. Instead of frogs and locusts, God had sent me death, betrayal, loneliness, sickness, and isolation. At every turn, a new plague visited me.
For years I had known in my heart that I was unworthy. Guilty. Sinful. Now my shame became a public thing, evident for all to perceive. My touch made others unclean. I became a burden rather than a blessing. I became an outcast – an object of disgust and pity.
* * * * *
“For I will satisfy the weary soul, and every languishing soul I will replenish.“
These were the words I had clung to for years. Words I did not yet know how to fully live. And now a man spoke them as if he were himself the fulfillment of them. “I will give you rest.” An ordinary man with the power to end weariness, to dispense God’s rest to those who carried heavy burdens. What I could not do for myself, this prophet claimed to be able to do for me.
Could such a promise be fulfilled?
Could I afford to ignore the offer, no matter how hard my disappointment if he lied?
The short take
Well-researched and with a lyrical flow to the writing, Elianna’s story is a moving one – from heartbreak and loss, to physical, emotional, and spiritual healing.
This story was filled with such heartache, and yet also such hope. Once I got into the story I pretty much read it in one sitting because it was too difficult to leave Elianna under the weight of her burdens, knowing what was in store for her; which, as it turned out, was more than just physical healing.
Land of Silence is the story (largely fictional) of the woman who bled for twelve years before reaching out to touch the hem of Jesus’ garment. Nothing is known of this woman outside of her brief appearance in the gospels, and yet, as Tessa Afshar notes, she is the only woman whom Jesus addressed as ‘daughter’. As she and many others have also noted, Jesus does not use words indiscriminately (the Thoenes’ mantra ‘Everything means something’ comes to mind!) So what might have happened in this woman’s life to give that one word – ‘daughter’ – significance?
That is the question that underpins this story, told by Elianna in the first person. It begins on the day her four-year-old brother, Joseph, loses his life as the result of a bee sting he received while in her care. The loss of their only son is a severe blow to her parents, Elianna’s father in particular; one from which he never recovers. Worse, he blames Elianna for the death and tells her to get out of his sight. It is a relationship that is never fully restored, and its absence leaves Elianna physically and emotionally vulnerable.
In many ways, Elianna’s physical illness is not the focus of this story. In fact, it doesn’t come upon Elianna until more than half-way through the novel, and when it does, she views it as a physical manifestation of her emotional and spiritual state. It is therefore entirely appropriate that the majority of this novel deals with the events that haemorrhaged her on the inside. While it was painful at times, (I confess to crying over one event in particular while I was doing the dishes with my Kindle balanced on the window-sill!), it was necessary to experience these events with Elianna in order to truly comprehend the fullness of Christ’s healing in her life (and yes, there were tears then too!)
This was a well-researched novel, especially in terms of the fabric trade and the medical treatments of the time. There was also a lovely flow to the writing, although I occasionally felt this was interrupted to explain things specific to the historical setting. I don’t mind that so much when it’s part of a larger section of narrative, but there were times when it happened in the middle of a scene where there was dialogue and other action, and was therefore more intrusive. In any event, it was a transient annoyance that didn’t really detract from my overall enjoyment of the novel.
If you’re a lover of Biblical fiction, or you love to see the way in which Jesus heals the sick AND the broken-hearted, then you will want to read this novel.
I received a complimentary copy of this novel from Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for my honest review.
Release date: 1 May 2016
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers
Author’s website: http://tessaafshar.com/