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The Handmaid and the Carpenter: A Novelby Elizabeth Berg
Synopses & Reviews
january, 4 b.c.
Outside, a thunderstorm raged. a great wind frightened the animals and bent the trees low to the ground, shaking their leaves almost off their branches. But inside the house of just-married Simon and Esther, there was light and laughter. A long table covered with a striped cloth was pushed up close to the wall, and it was laden with earthenware platters decorated by palm fronds and piled high with eggplant and olives, with spit-roasted beef and lamb and fish, with rounds of flatbread, with grapes and oranges and figs and sweet cakes.
Beneath the table, sixteen-year-old Joseph sat cross-legged in silence, watching sandals and ankles and hems of tunics go by. No one had seen him--he was almost totally obscured by the tablecloth--and he enjoyed the anonymity. He was of course a man now, but he could not resist on occasion returning to the pleasures of boyhood. This was one such pleasure: to sit hidden and watch the elders as they drank ever more wine and acted ever more foolish. In the corner, he saw old Samuel weaving as he stood with his feet far apart, trying to focus on the face before him. Wine had sloshed from his wooden cup to dribble down his mantle. You will soon be on the floor, Joseph muttered, and was startled to hear a voice say, I am surprised he is not already.
Joseph turned to see a girl squatting just behind him. You have found the seat of honor, she said. May I join you here?
There was something familiar about her. We are known to each other? he asked.
She nodded. You have seen me many times. And you spoke to me when last you saw me. You came to the well when I was there lastsummer. I was gathering water with my mother; you were passing by with your father, Jacob.
Your memory serves you well. And I remember now, also. You are called Mary. She was a wonder to behold, with her black curls escaped from her braid, her cheeks flushed dusky rose, her gaze so direct and yet mysterious. She tucked her hair behind her ears, and he saw the lines of her high cheekbones beginning to assert themselves. Her lips were full and pink. He was suddenly dry-mouthed, his heart knocking about in his chest like a caged animal wild to be released.
Yes, I am Mary, she said. And you are called Joseph.
And her voice Low and musical, laughlike. The utter completeness of her beauty was astonishing; it made for a rush of emotion in him so strong it felt like anger.
You have . . . grown, he told her, and his voice cracked, causing him to blush to the center of his soul.
She appeared not to notice but instead stared calmly into his eyes. And you also.
How old are you? he asked.
Newly thirteen. And you?
Seventeen in two days.
They regarded each other carefully, and then he ducked down and pointed to the people before him who had joined hands and made a circle to dance. They whooped and called out to one another, stamped their feet, threw their heads back and laughed. They rejoice so Joseph said, ca
Set in the biblical world of Israel and Palestine, a new rendition of the Christmas story follows a young couple, Mary and Joseph, who are in love and planning to be married, only to be confronted by an unexpected pregnancy that for Mary is a miracle and for Joseph, a challenge to his faith in his wife and in God. 125,000 first printing.
In this wonderful novel about love and trust, hope and belief, Elizabeth Berg, the bestselling author of We Are All Welcome Here and The Year of Pleasures, transports us to Nazareth in biblical times to reimagine the events of the classic Christmas story.
We see Mary–young, strong, and inquisitive–as she first meets Joseph, a serious-minded young carpenter who is steadfastly devoted to the religious traditions of their people. The two become betrothed, but are soon faced with an unexpected pregnancy. Aided by a great and abiding love, they endure challenges to their relationship as well as threats to their lives as they come to terms with the mysterious circumstances surrounding the birth of their child, Jesus. For Mary, the pregnancy is a divine miracle and a privilege. For Joseph, it is an ongoing test not only of his courage but of his faith–in his wife as well as in his God.
Exquisitely written and imbued with the truthful emotions and richness of detail that have earned Elizabeth Berg a devoted readership, The Handmaid and the Carpenter explores lives touched profoundly by miracles large and small. This powerful and moving novel is destined to become a classic.
About the Author
Elizabeth Berg is the New York Times bestselling author of many novels, including We Are All Welcome Here, The Year of Pleasures, The Art of Mending, Say When, True to Form, Never Change, and Open House, which was an Oprah’s Book Club selection in 2000. Durable Goods and Joy School were selected as ALA Best Books of the Year, and Talk Before Sleep was short-listed for the ABBY Award in 1996. The winner of the 1997 New England Booksellers Award for her body of work, Berg is also the author of a nonfiction work, Escaping into the Open: The Art of Writing True. She lives in Chicago.
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