A family divided in faith. A woman imprisoned by shame. A miracle that changes everything.
In this captivating retelling of a classic biblical story, Jesus shocks the town of Bethany with Lazarus’s resurrection from the dead, leading Martha—a seemingly perfect woman trapped by the secrets of her past—to hope and a new life.
Everyone in Bethany admires Martha—the perfect Jewish woman. She feeds and clothes her loved ones, looks after the family farm, and meticulously follows every precept of the Pharisees’ strict laws. But Martha is hiding a secret. At her sister’s marriage feast, she gave her heart and her innocence to a young musician who promised to return and marry her, but instead betrayed her love and abandoned her.
Seven years later, only two people in Bethany know of Martha’s secret sin: her brother, Lazarus, and Simon, the righteous Pharisee to whom Martha is betrothed. When Lazarus falls ill, Martha is faced with a choice: send for Jesus to save her dying brother—risking the wrath of Simon who threatens to betray her—or deny Jesus’ healing power and remain trapped in her tomb of secrecy and lies.
Meanwhile, on the shores of Galilee, Isa roams the wilderness, tortured by demons and knowing only that someone is waiting for him. When he is healed by Jesus, he finds that seven years have passed since his descent into madness. Isa journeys home to Bethany only to find he is too late to win back Martha’s love.
When Martha risks all to heal Lazarus, will Jesus arrive in time, or will he—like Isa—come too late?
Like its predecessor in the series (The Thief, one of my favorite books of 2014), The Tomb is well-written, descriptive, and well-researched. It's a fine example of biblical fiction! I do confess, though, that it didn't hold my attention the same way that The Thief did, nor did I find it quite as compelling...
When pondering what it was that kept me from loving this book, several things came to mind: the connections between different accounts and people in the Gospels felt a little forced to me; the romance was much less prominent, with a prolonged time apart, making the relationship less impactful; and the "retelling" aspect was a little strong, making me feel less invested in what would happen next and a little unsure about the portrayals of beloved characters.
Oddly enough, in looking back on my review of The Thief, I realized that the one thing I had noted I wanted more of was Jesus's presence in the story. We get more of that in The Tomb, which should have made me happy. I do like that this particular story revolves more clearly around him, but for some reason, I just didn't deeply connect with the characters and their situations/emotions. That might be because of when I read it or how I read it...or just because I as a reader can be a fickle creature. I'll admit it!
This story does have some great things going for it: wonderful sibling relationships (Lazarus's character is one of my favorites in the story) and a thoughtful message about faith sometimes requiring something different of us than we expect.
If you like biblical fiction that takes a fresh look at familiar stories, this book is bound to please! I'm afraid I just wasn't the ideal reader for this particular title. But I loved The Thief, and Landsem is certainly an author to watch and follow.
*With thanks to NetGalley and Howard Books for providing me with a temporary e-ARC of the book in exchange for my honest opinion.*