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Living Water Hardcover – February 4, 2003

4.8 out of 5 stars 25 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Inspired by the New Testament vignette about the woman at the well, first-time novelist Hendricks imagines the life story of a Samaritan woman who spreads the word of God after an encounter with Jesus Christ. Growing up, Maryam is viewed with suspicion in her village; neighbors derisively call her "gibora," meaning brave and bold-qualities that girls are not supposed to have. Since the humiliating day when the Roman soldiers stripped and beat the Samaritan men in front of their wives and children, the men have treated women as chattel. When she's 12, Maryam's father marries her to Jalon, a spoiled, dissipated youth, but Jalon divorces her under the law of erwat dabar, which allows husbands to cast aside wives virtually at will. Having no other means of support, Maryam remarries four more times to a sorry collection of men, two of whom commit suicide, before finding Yeshua, a gentle, like-minded husband. She meets Jesus at the well when he asks for a drink of water, promising in return "a spring of water welling up to eternal life." Maryam is surprised that he speaks to her, as Jews don't normally have dealings with Samaritans, let alone Samaritan women. At Jesus' bidding, Maryam brings Yeshua to meet him, and Jesus sends them out to preach the word that men and women are equal under God. Hendricks has his characters speak in Southern black vernacular ("Why men treat women like that?... Sumpin wrong with women?"), which, while slightly distracting at first, is surprisingly effective. The slow-moving action and inspirational tone will turn off some readers, but those interested in biblical history will appreciate this inventive variation.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.


“It is hard to believe that this is Hendricks’ first trip to the literary well.” (Michael Eric Dyson, author of Making Malcolm: The Myth and Meaning of Malcolm X, Race Rules: Navigating the Color Line, and the forthcoming Why I Love Black Women)

“Living Water is an exemplary novel for our times. Don’t miss this book!” (Cornel West, author of Race Matters)

“A divinely inspired bridge to a new level of self-awareness. A must read.” (Iyanla Vanzant, best-selling author of Everyday I Pray and Up From Here)

“Refreshing wit and enlightenment... you’ll never read the Gospel story the same way again. A provocative novel” (Christian Science Monitor)

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: HarperOne; 1 edition (February 4, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060000872
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060000875
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,023,192 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Obery Hendricks has taken a scene from the Bible and transformed it into a poetic novel about the conditions of Samaritan women during the times of Jesus. No one knows the name of the woman Jesus talked with at the well in the book of John, chapter 4, but this novel gives her a name. It also takes us through her five tragic marriages and gives her the strength to speak out in a country where women were considered worthless. While the novel takes place 2000 years ago, it is easy to slip into the mood of the book as attitudes and conditions of life for Samaritans under the harsh rule of the Romans and the disdain of the Jews unfolds. Unfortunately, it calls to mind some modern injustices that still exist.

Hendricks perhaps takes some liberties with Jesus toward the end of the book that I am sure will ruffle the feathers of some. The novel is an eye opener that explains some of the present day beliefs that we continue to maintain regarding the place of women, what spirituality is all about and above all, what constitutes love.

Reviewed by Alice Holman
The RAWSISTAZ Reviewers
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Format: Hardcover
I had the great pleasure of interviewing Dr. Hendricks for Booking Matters Magazine in February 2003, however at the time, I had not finished his novel (Living Water). I am very happy to share that I recently finished the novel and was left almost speechless by it's contents. Dr. Hendricks' dug really dip to pen such a powerful account of the well known bible story of the woman at the well. Growing up in church, I've heard the story (like many of you) preached, taught probably 1,000 different ways...however, I have never pondered who this woman really was. I never thought that maybe she (Maryam) had a story. In my quest to read novels that are historically based, I could NOT have chosen a better book to begin with. Living Water gives any reader a front row seat into the life of the "Woman at the Well" beginning with her childhood. By the end of the book, you feel as if you know her personally and you understand her reputation as having had five husbands. (you meet the husbands in the story)
Reading this novel opened up a plethora of new words for me, as Dr. Hendricks is a master storyteller, gifted writer and scholar. While challenging in some parts, the more I read, the harder it became for me to put the book down. Throughout the story, original biblical names are used, which makes the story even more interesting. The character development is super and the story flows very well. Some might view this as a challenging read but one, which will leave you thirsty no more. I highly recommend this to any avid reader, male and female, clergy, book clubs...it's a GREAT read.
Hats off to Dr. Hendrick's for giving us insight into the lives of these bible story characters, especially Maryam. Thanks for reminding us that even the people in the bible had/have significant stories....
I await your next novel....with great anticipation.
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Format: Paperback
This is a gripping, at times lusty, tale based on the life story of the Samaritan Woman. LIVING WATER is not a stereotypically lightweight, biblical novel. It's for readers who are ready for a challenge and willing to look for truths presented in nontraditional forms.
Author Obery Hendricks, a seminary "professor of biblical interpretation," calls this, his first novel, "an African American retelling of the New Testament story of the woman at the well who was married to five successive husbands at a time when women did not have the right to choose either marriage or divorce." Ethnic overtones are evident in some characters' nicknames (Sonny Boy and Big Mama) and patterns of dialogue ("Oh Lordy, we're in trouble now" and "Don't he talk sweet"). But there are deeper parallels: The ravages of slavery and harsh control influence the heart of the story --- the Samaritan men being humiliated and beaten down by the Romans; the women being powerless property of the husbands who have lost respect for themselves and take out their frustration on their women.
The book opens with a short, startling death scene of the Samaritan woman's fifth husband. Then Part 1 is a flashback, from prenuptial childhood up to that pivotal, bloody mess. She --- her name is Maryam, though significantly we aren't told this for 250 pages --- is a spunky, in-your-face kind of kid who sadly learns, from her kindhearted grandmother, Ma Tee, that spunk is not acceptable for girls. "Atop the coarse woolen tunic that is [the girl's] usual attire is now draped a stale, heavy garment of carefulness. Ma Tee has tried her best to craft it to her size, yet it does not fit. Still, she will dutifully struggle to wear it, though its weight will sag her heart to its knees.
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Format: Hardcover
Obery Hendricks' first novel celebrates womanhood, the resilience of the human spirit, and the healing power of love and forgiveness.

Living Water expands on the biblical story (John 4:7-29) of the life of the "woman at the well," an unnamed Samaritan woman with a questionable background (five ex-husbands and a sixth common-law husband) who encounters Jesus at the local well. Hendricks effectively weaves this biblical story and context with African American mores and experience into an examination of the effects of oppression and self-hatred on relationships and community.
The reader is immediately confronted with questions of her innocence or guilt in the first pages of the book that describe a dying man's last moments.
Hendricks uses this woman's sometimes painful and troubling story to explore how a male-dominated society sanctioned its oppression of women. When her loving grandmother, Ma Tee, dies, she loses her primary source of love, wisdom, and refuge. She must learn how to navigate and survive the customs and rules designed to control her with little assistance except from a few doting community elders. Local custom forces her marriage to the highest bidder and places her at the mercy of the first of five very difficult husbands. Circumstances and cultural dictates force her to move from husband to husband, with each man taking away a bit of her humanity, leaving her emotionally broken and nearly destroyed with little recourse except to fight back. She ultimately finds the strength that enables her to heal, forgive, and embrace a man and community with true love and spirit.
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