Book Recommendation – The Silk Merchant of Sychar by Cindy Williams

Book Description:

One woman, five husbands and the weary rabbi at the well who knows everything she ever did. 

The day after they bury her husband Leah Marcellus loses her baby. A widow and childless, what man will want her now? 

Her father arranges a second marriage—a profitable business arrangement—sealed on Mount Gerizim, the holy mountain where every true follower of Yahweh worships, but Leah’s heart belongs to another. Her passion only brings trouble – jealousy, murder and lies. 

Leah’s skill at the loom and the secrets of dye –the woad, the murex and madder—brings her renown among the Roman women of wealth. 

Yet death and betrayal soon steal her security. In desperation, Leah sacrifices her peace of mind and risks everything to protect her family.

From the olive groves of Samaria to the bloodied sand of a Roman stadium to the exquisite silks brought from the East, The Silk Merchant of Sychar weaves colour into the biblical account of the woman at the well.

Narelle’s Thoughts:

I enjoyed reading The Silk Merchant of Sychar and learning more about life and culture in Samaria and the Roman Empire during Biblical times. The story explores a fictional background for the woman who Jesus meets at the well. How has this woman reached a point in her life where she’s had five husbands, and is currently in a relationship with a man who is not her husband?

The story follows Leah’s life, starting when her first husband passed away and Leah miscarries their only child. We walk with Leah as she struggles with the limitations of a patriarchal society where women gain status from marriage and children, and need the legal protection of their father, husband, or male relative.

Leah is a descendant of Joseph from the tribe of Mannasseh. She is disillusioned with the legalism and practices of the priests at the temple. Leah’s husbands and their families believe in a variety of religious practices, including idol worship. Death is never far from Leah’s door, and desperation drives her to make both wise and unwise decisions in her search for love and security and a place to belong.

We are given an insight into married life through Leah’s eyes, and issues of lust and passionate romantic love are explored in the story in the context of Leah’s relationships. As a result, the level of sensuality and explicit detail in the story is higher and more detailed than the typical Biblical fiction story. Descriptions of sexual situations are tasteful, but the bedroom door is open and this content may be too graphic for readers who prefer clean reads. I recommend The Silk Merchant of Sychar to readers who like Biblical fiction that explores the dynamics of family relationships and faith issues in different cultural contexts.

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  1. I agree with your assessment of this book Narelle. I loved reading about the fictional lifestyle of the time of Jesus and the descriptions of the sumptuous food and vibrant colours of the fabrics. I found the descriptions of all her relationships to be realistic; perhaps a little too gritty for some, but portrayed tastefully nonetheless. To me it all built up to Leah’s meeting with Jesus at the well. He was the only man to see her, really see her and know all about her. And she joyfully shared that with all the townspeople.

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