As the Historical Fiction correspondent for the new FamilyFiction digital magazine, I recently highlighted Tessa Afshar’s debut novel, Pearl in the Sand in my historical news column.
As you know authors love words so I often receive a lengthier response to my interview questions than space allows in the magazine. When that happens, I’ll be sharing the extended interviews with my readers
So here is Tessa’s full response to my interview question.
Rel:~ What was it about Rahab that captivated you enough to write her story?
Tessa:~ Rahab lived in the bowels of a wall; her house was built into the defensive walls of the city of Jericho. When I read about this detail in the book of Joshua, I was hooked. What was it like living in a wall?
Then during a visit to Florence, I noticed that Ponte Vecchio—the famed bridge straddling the Arno River for almost seven hundred years—had tiny shops built right into its walls. They bulged out of the sides of the bridge like odd-shaped barnacles sticking out of the hull of a ship. Before my eyes, a little bit of Rahab’s life materialized.
The tiny glimpse we are given of Rahab in the Hebrew Bible reveals an uncommon woman; she wasn’t afraid to bargain with the enemy to save her life. Clearly she loved her family as she fought to spare them from destruction. The only thing that outstripped her courage was her astonishing faith in a God about whom she could not have known very much. I found these qualities fascinating, but I also felt there must be more. She was a harlot after all. What did that life do to the heart of such a woman?
The more I read about Rahab, the more amazed I became at her destiny. This Canaanite harlot married one of Israel’s leading men, a man as close to a Jewish aristocrat as you can get in a country without kings and princes. Wait a minute! How was that possible? Who would conceive of such a marriage? Well, except God.
Pearl in the Sand recounts the tale of a woman whose world was a mess, whose life was a mess, whose heart was a mess, but in encountering God, she found to her shock that her life was salvageable. More than that—it was valuable. She found that she was lovable. And Salmone found out these same truths right alongside her.
God started the most significant part of Rahab’s life by literally pulling down the walls of her home around her. As traumatic as that moment must have been for Rahab, she could not have moved on to the future God had planned for her without it. In a parallel pursuit of healing for her broken soul, Pearl in the Sand portrays a God who just as determinedly set out to ruin the walls surrounding Rahab’s heart. I think women today need to know God as the wooer and pursuer of their hearts. They need to know that sometimes the most glorious breakthroughs of life come through a vector of God-ordained pain.
More than anything I wrote this story because I hope the reader of this story will come away with a deeper glimpse into her own soul, and a more profound understanding of God the Father. Rahab learned to cling to God in the midst of her sorrows, to believe in Him more than she believed in fear. For me, that is one of the most crucial components of faith: becoming a person who gives God full access to every part of one’s soul, even if that access sometimes hurts because it involves the demolition of one’s defensive walls.