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.
Berg's sweetly understated dramatization of the Nativity story casts Mary and Joseph as provincial teenagers who try to honor family tradition in spite of challenging circumstances. Alternating between the voices of the holy couple, Berg relates a romance that blossoms at the wedding of relatives between the 16-year-old carpenter from Nazareth and the comely 13-year-old girl originally from Sepphoris. Mary, dreamy and intractable, already entertains notions of miraculous circumstances surrounding her own birth to her barren mother, Anne. Joseph is instantly smitten and engenders the trust of both families for a betrothal, yet Mary holds back, cherishing a sense of greater destiny. Escaping a near rape by a Greek man by the river, Mary then receives the angel's message that she will bear an extraordinary son, despite never having known a man; the sadly unwed Mary must return to Joseph, who repudiates her until he, too, is visited in a dream by an angel directing him on the honorable course. With Herod's decree that everyone return to their hometowns to register for the census, Joseph and the near-term Mary set off on their arduous and momentous journey to Bethlehem. Berg handles the gospel passages with a tender reverence. (On sale Nov. 7) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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November 06, 2006
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Excerpt from The Handmaid and the Carpenter by Elizabeth Berg
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."