Redeeming Grace: Ruth’s Story
by Jill Eileen Smith
My rating: 3 / 5
Genre: Biblical fiction
I’m going to skip the synopsis in my own words this time, because if you don’t have at least a basic understanding of the story of Ruth from the Bible, you probably won’t be paying much attention to this review anyway. Overall, I didn’t like this book nearly as much as I’d hoped. Some of that I’m sure is personal preference, since Ruth is my favorite book in the Bible and the account of Ruth and Boaz has long held a kind of romance for me. Even outside of that, though, I think there were some issues with how the author handled this retelling.
The author spent so much time on some things and not enough time on others, in my opinion. For example, not to be too flippant about it, but the story doesn’t really get going until Naomi’s husband and sons have all died. This is covered in 5 verses of the 4 total chapters of Ruth in the Bible, but by 130 of the 350 pages of the book. Some of that time was spent introducing Ruth’s character, but a lot of her personality and loyalty can easily be seen in her actions later in the story. Some of those pages were given to Boaz, too, during which he had a wife of more than 10 years. If you’re like me and would have thrown the book across the room if this account had made Ruth a 2nd wife to Boaz (while the 1st wife was alive, a common practice in those days), don’t worry. I still don’t care for how it all worked out, romance-wise, but at least it wasn’t that.
What I wish the author had spent more time on was showing and explaining some of the customs that might seem strange to us modern folks, like why Ruth uncovered Boaz’s feet on the threshing floor. And this leads to my other main issue with the story, the blending of the fictional with what is directly out of the Bible. Though Smith does do a decent job of making the dialog seem like something from back then most of the time, when the characters say words that are taken directly from Scripture, the difference is a bit jolting to me. And I believe that Boaz’s first marriage in this story is likely a way of explaining why he is an older man, yet unmarried, but Boaz in the Bible speaks about God as if he fully trusts in Him and believes in His goodness. Yet here we have a Boaz who is broken and questioning God, even for a while feeling a bit numb to Him, yet still speaks those same trustful words to Ruth at the necessary time from the biblical account…it just doesn’t mesh.
What I did love, however, is Ruth herself and how she’s portrayed in this book. I think the author did right by the biblical account in that respect, and I really liked Ruth’s conversion and how she always wanted to know more about Naomi’s God and the Israelite customs. I also appreciated the completely fictional side-story of Hamul, Elimelech’s brother’s son, both in its own respect and in how it showed Boaz following not only the letter of the law, but also the spirit of it.
I do wonder if I should cease attempts to find a fictionalized version of this account, because it may be impossible to find one to my liking. I think, though, that what bothers me most is when the author feels the need to come up with modern-mindset reasons for things from the historical account, even though we all know how different cultures were back then. Also, this is another Christian book where a newly married couple’s first night together is described a bit further than I would prefer. Not graphic by any means, but enough to make me start to feel uncomfortable before we moved on. If you’re interested in reading this book, however, don’t let me dissuade you. Many other people thought it was great, and you can check out their reviews at the link below.
Find out more about Redeeming Grace
If you’ve read this book, or read it in the future, feel free to let me know what you think!