Every Stephanie Landsem book I've read has gone straight to my heart. Sometimes it was a character refreshing my heart, sometimes it was a scene putting hairline cracks in it, but the story was always a treasure.
First came The Well, then The Thief, and now The Tomb.
The best part of the Living Water series is the way it's crafted. While the spirit of each installment is the stories of Scripture, Stephanie develops plots and subplots that twine and weave and layer together. She puts story-flesh on Biblical people, and invents other men and women who could have jumped from the pages of the New Testament. When you immerse yourself in these novels, you encounter a piece of the Gospel, you meet the Good News.
In this case, you find the Good News through Martha's story.
Martha, Mary, and Lazarus are the grown children of a devout widower, who observes the rules of his religion as carefully as possible.
Martha runs her father's house like a matron twice her age, attending to the duties of hearth and family. She watches Mary with a bittersweet affection- the younger sister is burdened by nothing. Mary laughs and loves like a child, and people either appreciate her kind heart or resent her freedom.
He may indulge Mary, but their father is proud of Martha's gravity and piety. He defines her as a girl who always uses her head instead of following her heart. Even that praise becomes a chafing yoke for Martha: her father loves her stability, but he overlooks her dreams.
The Tomb is the story of the one time Martha follows her heart, and what happens after.
Oh, this story!
Scripture hints that this trio of siblings were deeply beloved, one to another, and they invited Jesus into the home made by their love. Those themes come out strongly in this tale. Because they were human, their relationships also had conflict- we see that frustration in the classic Mary/Martha scene.
The sisterhood between the girls- it's tenderly described and rings true to life. My sister is my best friend, and we know when we're seeing each other's "real self." The brotherliness of Lazarus is also precious- he wants to make things well for both of his sisters.
When Lazarus rises in this tale, the author takes pains to give him "hope and a future." Scripture lets us wonder about the specifics of what happens after, and Stephanie gives him something beautiful.
Without giving away any secrets, I also love what she does with another main character. The man who lived among the graveyards, tormented, who scraped himself with the broken rocks? And he meets Jesus, and Jesus restores him? I love that story. And Stephanie re-imagines it here.
I wish the Living Water series could go on and on. That's how good it is.
I'm grateful I have had the chance to read and review The Well in 2013, The Thief in 2014, and now The Tomb in 2015.
Thank you Stephanie and Howard Books for my review copies over the past seasons.
Stephanie writes historical fiction because she loves adventure in far-off times and places. In real life, she’s backpacked through Germany and Eastern Europe, studied in Salzburg, enjoyed gelato in Italy, rode a camel in Morocco, and floated in the salty Corinthian Sea. Her favorite cities are Rome, Berlin and Budapest. Her travels kindle her imagination, fuel her love of history and foreign culture, and introduce her to one-of-a-kind characters.
Stephanie is equally happy at home in Minnesota with her husband of 22 years, four children, three fat cats, and a tortoise named Moe. When she’s not writing, she’s feeding the ravenous horde, volunteering at church and school, battling dandelions, and dreaming about her next adventure - whether it be in person or on the page.