In Bread of Angels Lydia’s life has been ruled by fear, ever since a traumatic childhood event. Her father does his best to provide a sense of security while also teaching his daughter the family secrets behind the coveted color purple. Lydia is content living in her ancestral home and learning the traditions of the royal colored dye.
But when Lydia and her father put their trust in the wrong people, they lose everything. Lydia’s father encourages her to start over in a new place, free from the taint and betrayal which follow them at home. An unlikely friendship with the Jewish Rebecca ensures that Lydia has a friend and ally in her new home of Phillipi.
Lydia struggles to honor her father and family heritage. She strives to carry on the family business in a time when women were rarely allowed to live and work on their own. Despite her successes, fear continues to stalk her every step until she hears the message of the apostle Paul. Finally, Lydia recognizes the source of peace and freedom. But when she is challenged once again by old foes and older secrets, will fear finally conquer her or will Lydia have the final victory?
Ever since Tessa Afshar’s released her debut novel Pearl of Sand, about the biblical harlot Rahab, I have been eagerly devouring her novels. In my opinion Afshar is one of the premier authors of biblical fiction. I appreciate how she brings to life women of the Bible, both familiar and somewhat obscure. Bread of Angels continues her tradition of excellent stories of female characters.
As with the rest of her books, Afshar creates an emotionally complex and historically accurate world which immediately draws the reader in. Lydia is mentioned briefly in the Bible as one of the first Christian converts and a seller of purple cloth. Bread of Angels both expands on this record and imaginatively adds to what little we know of Lydia.
I really appreciated how even though Lydia has some personal enemies, the author makes it clear that her real enemy is fear. This is a battle that anyone can relate to. It is one which both cripples and imprisons Lydia. Who hasn’t struggled to break free of this same foe? Sometimes it’s easier to see the truth of this ancient enemy when witnessing someone else’s battle with it.
Another thing which both fascinated and delighted me is the way both Lydia and the book speak of the color purple. In a way, it becomes almost alive and a secondary character. It is one of the best examples of personification I’ve ever read.
Not only is Afshar gifted in giving life to historical figures, but she also excels at weaving truth into the story much like Jesus did when telling parables. I would be reading along, engrossed in Lydia’s life when suddenly a truth bomb would drop and I would have to pause and ponder. I practically highlighted half the book trying to notate and remember the deep wisdom being imparted.
Bread of Angels is not only a story with realistic characters, an interesting plot and a glimpse back into history. It is a book which delves the depths of the human heart while also challenging its’ readers to take a look at the things in their own lives which may be holding them captive.