Book Review: ‘A Lineage of Grace’ by Francine Rivers

Synopsis: This compilation of the five books in the best-selling A Lineage of Grace series shares the stories of the five unlikely women who changed eternity. Tamar, betrayed by the men who controlled her future, she fought for her right to believe in a loving God. Rahab, a woman with a past to whom God gave a future. Ruth, who gave up everything, expecting nothing, and God honored her. Bathsheba, her beauty stirred the passion of a king, her pain moved the heart of God. Mary, all eternity had been waiting for this moment and she responded in simple obedience to God’s call.  Each was faced with extraordinary —even scandalous— challenges, each took great personal risk to fulfill her calling, and each was destined to play a key role in the lineage of Jesus Christ.

My review: When a friend of mine found out that I was writing Christian romance books, she recommended this book by Francine Rivers. I’ve read many of Francine River’s books and have really enjoyed them, so I decided to give this one a chance. The first thing I noticed was how ‘thick’ the book was – This was due to the fact that the book is made up of five novellas covering the stories of five key women in the Bible. My reviews for each of these stories are fairly mixed, so I’ve separated out my thoughts below:
  • The first novella was based on the life of Tamar. Not much is said of Tamar in the Bible, and I loved the way Francine got inside her head and weaved in the cultural customs of the day to create a fascinating view of what life would have been like for her. I was riveted by the story and stayed up well past my bedtime to finish it.
  • The story of Rahab was next – a prostitute from Jericho. I really enjoyed this story too (another one that kept me reading past midnight). The story was fairly true to the text of the Bible, with a few assumptions thrown in, like the identity of the spies that were sent to Jericho. Rahab was portrayed as a woman of faith who took risks for God – very inspiring. I was also pleasantly surprised by the romance in the story.
  • After the first two stories, I had high expectations for Ruth. This is one of my favourite books of the Bible and the story was fairly true to what is recorded in the Bible. However, once the biblical account finished, Rivers took the story on a new tangent, exploring a misunderstanding between Ruth and Boaz, which I didn’t think was necessary. This book did teach me something new though, which was that Boaz’s mother was Rahab (an outsider) – this could explain why Boaz showed such kindness to Ruth, who was a foreigner to the Israelites.
  • Bathsheba was the next woman of the Bible featured. This was a much longer story (a little too long) and started with Bathsheba as a child and her infatuation with David, who would soon become king of Israel. The sexual tension between David and Bathsheba eventually led to adultery and a devastating aftermath. I liked that this story reflected the reality of human sin and God’s forgiveness (second chances). It was also an interesting insight into what life would have been like for one of David’s wives/concubines – vying for his attention. The story finishes when Bathsheba and David’s son, Solomon, becomes King. I felt the story could have done with some heavier editing, as there was a fair bit of repetition of Bathsheba’s internal thought processes.
  • Jesus’ mother, Mary, is the final woman in this series. I liked the way Rivers portrayed the events surrounding Jesus’s birth and infancy, such as the threats from Herod and the arrival of the Wise Men. As a mother, it was also fascinating to think about what it would be like to give birth to and raise the Son of God. It wasn’t until Mary had more children that she realised that Jesus’ sinless nature was not a result of her perfect parenting! What made me feel uneasy with this account was that it features Jesus as a character and talks about things he says and miracles he does that aren’t in the Bible, eg healing his sister who was dying. It seems a little presumptuous for people to think they can imagine what God would do or say. When the story did follow along with the biblical account, it left me feeling flat as it didn’t include the whole story. I think it is better to read one of the gospels and see the truth inspired by God, not as summarised by an author. I skipped through paragraphs towards the end so I could finish it more quickly.

My uneasiness with the final story in this five-book series means that I wouldn’t recommend this book to others, but there are many readers on Amazon and Goodreads who have loved this series, so I’ll leave you to decide if it is something you’d like to read.

Have you read this book? What did you think?

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