In “Harvest of Rubies” we are told of Sarah, a young Jewish girl, in the Kingdom of Persia, under the rule of King Artaxerxes, who has lost her mother to illness, and feels abandoned by her father emotionally. She feels a failure at all the womanly things that girls her aged are being trained to do to prepare themselves to be wives and mothers, yet she finds she has a growing love for reading and writing and the things that her father a Court Scribe do every day at his work. At first learning in secret since it isn’t allowed or necessary for girls, Sarah struggles to learn, but is able to teach herself to read and to write. Then having been discovered by her father, and tutored by him, Sarah flourishes at the arts of a scribe. Sarah can only dream where this would take her until Cousin Nehemiah, who is the Official Cupbearer to the King, is brought to her home by a meddling aunt to talk her out of the foolishness of learning. Instead Cousin Nehemiah becomes the open door to her future, one that will take her into the service of the Queen of Persia, and on into a royal marriage with a man who seems to hate her. Sarah’s life is not only a physical journey though. It becomes a spiritual journey that takes her from anger and doubts about God, through a pruning that turns her life into a harvest of rubies. Will she please the queen with her skills as a scribe? Will she ever be able to forgive her father for his estrangement from her as a child? Will she ever have a real marriage with the man who she has been given to as a wife, or will she remain a servant to him, never to feel his love?
Darius, son of the King’s cousin Vivan, has made a deathbed promise to his Jewish mother to marry only a Jewish girl, and yet to his father who is Persian he must be loyal too. Torn between the two worlds of his ancestory, Darius finally tells his father why he has not chosen anyone to marry. He had been able to avoid it through his military service to the King, that is until the Queen of Persia gets involved. After hearing Vivan explain the situation, King Artaxerxes and Queen Damaspia decide to get involved. Damaspia has a Senior Scribe who is a Jewish woman, and just happens to deserve a reward for saving her from a major plot against her, and Darius just happens to need a Jewish wife to fulfill his promise. Putting two and two together, Damaspia chooses to reward Sarah, her scribe with a royal marriage to Darius. Darius has his doubts about this union to a girl he does not know, and Sarah doesn’t want to have any part in an arranged marriage. But feeling a loyalty to her majesty the queen, both find themselves going through with it. What happens the day of their wedding that turns the groom against the bride? How will Darius ever come to trust Sarah? Will Darius be able to accept a wife who does not believe in the same God as he? Is this marriage doomed, because of a lack of respect and trust, and even more from a lack of love?
“Harvest of Rubies” has everything a good story should have, action, adventure, love, humor, intrigue, scripture, Biblical History, and even some Ancient World History mixed in. Tessa Afshar spun a tale that will hold the reader through twist and turns in the life of Sarah, yet will spiritually and emotionally draw you into thoughts about your personal relationship with God. If you like a book that haunts you with questions when you put it down, and make it impossible for you to stop reading it, this book is the one for you. Afshar has a wonderful way of drawing the reader in, and making you feel like you are part of the main character’s family, as if you are witnessing every single moment of their lives personally. With her ability to make the characters walk right off the pages of the book, I found myself fully engaged mentally and emotionally with the story.
I definitely would recommend this book, but not just for adults. I found that the story is actually a wonderful one for teens and young adults. I only have two suggestions for the reader. First, make sure you read it with a box of tissues near. I’m sure you will find yourself doing what I did, crying in sadness and also in happiness for the characters in the book. You will get emotionally vested in the story of Sarah and Darius, and thoughtful about your own relationship with God. The second is prepare yourself for the exerpt from another book being written by Afshar that continues the story of Sarah and Darius. Once you read it you will find yourself frustrated that you don’t have the new book in your hands yet. I know I will be watching for it to come out just so I can see what happens to Sarah and Darius as they face more intrigue that test their loyalty to the King and their love for one another. This is a great love story that could play out on stage or on screen. Any movie made from this book would surely become a classic that would be loved for generations to come, as the book will become a favorite for anyone who reads it.
Rated PG: Young children would not understand some situations in the book, but they are handled with modesty and a writing style that lets the imagination do the work instead of using graphic description.
Review copy provided by the publisher. Thank you!