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Bread of Angels Paperback – June 6, 2017
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"Afshar has created an unforgettable story of dedication, betrayal, and redemption that culminates in a rich testament to God's mercies and miracles." Publishers Weekly
Achingly tender from the first flutter of romance to the last sting of betrayal, Bread of Angels is an intensely emotive and satisfying read. (Mesu Andrews, award-winning author of the Treasures of the Nile series)
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As with Land of Silence, Tessa Afshar beautifully captures the setting of Biblical Thyatira and Phillipi, making them seem as real as any of our modern cities. Additionally and more importantly, in Lydia, Tessa brings to life an obscure Biblical character who gets exactly one paragraph in Acts 16. In Bread of Angels, Lydia is a brilliant businesswoman with a generous heart and unwavering ability to "pay it forward." Over and over again, even before she embraces Christ, her kindness and generosity lets her reap what she sows. A glorious harvest results, most notably in lifelong friends like Rebekah, Aemellia, and yes, Paul himself.
Tessa's other characters come to life as well in a deftly crafted plot. I loved the idea of Grecian Lydia and Jewish Rebekah partnering to run their own purple goods shop, as female-run businesses were unheard of in their era. Add in minor characters like Chloris the servant, and you get a rare dose of Biblical "girl power" worth rooting for, especially with an adversary like Antiochus threatening to ruin Lydia at every turn. However, feminine strength is not the only great part of the Bread of Angels plot. There's also Lydia's relationship with Paul and some early Christians, as well as her position as founder of the region's first Christian church. Through her eyes, we get to see such events as Paul and Silas' miraculous escape from prison and their interactions with a fortune-telling slave girl. Familiar Bible stories get an added dose of insight and complexity that make familiar characters seem more like real people.
It's worth noting that I laughed out loud a few times. Most people wouldn't put "funny" and "Biblical fiction" in the same sentence, but Lydia possesses a dry sense of humor that provides comic relief here and there. In addition, Paul and Silas' optimistic reactions to persecution get an appreciative chuckle occasionally. I have no doubt these two men spoke and acted in real life as they did in this novel.
Bread of Angels does have a few flaws. Some events seem glossed over, and chapters sometimes end too soon. Some important characters like Marcus have strong backstories, but so much time is spent on those that the people themselves remain underdeveloped. Lydia herself, as well as some other characters, could have used more shading. For instance, we know Lydia struggles with anxiety--but we mostly know that because we're told. What if we had seen her have a panic attack? What if she'd had a mannerism that gave away her anxiousness? Anyway, those are minor issues overall. I still recommend this book for a glimpse into the full life of Lydia, and a taste of literary manna.