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In the rich tradition of Francine Rivers’s Lineage of Grace series, comes a beautiful retelling of the biblical story of the woman at the well—bringing to life this poignant young woman struggling to survive love and heartbreak.For the women of the Samaritan village of Sychar, the well is a place of blessing—the place where they gather to draw their water and share their l In the rich tradition of Francine Rivers’s Lineage of Grace series, comes a beautiful retelling of the biblical story of the woman at the well—bringing to life this poignant young woman struggling to survive love and heartbreak.For the women of the Samaritan village of Sychar, the well is a place of blessing—the place where they gather to draw their water and share their lives—but not for Mara and her family. Shunned for the many sins of her mother, Mara struggles against the constant threats of starvation or exile. But Mara and her mother, Nava’s lives are forever changed with the arrival of two men: Shem, a mysterious and wealthy young man from Caesarea, and Jesus, a Jewish teacher. Nava is transformed by Jesus, with his talk of forgiveness, but his teachings come too late and she is stoned by the villagers for her past sins. Desperate to save her mother, Mara and Shem embark on a journey to seek Jesus’ help—a journey that brings unexpected love and hope, despite great difficulties. In The Well, debut novelist Stephanie Landsem brings to life the culture and people of Jesus’ day, skillfully demonstrating how redemption can bring about the life-changing effects of forgiveness and love.


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In the rich tradition of Francine Rivers’s Lineage of Grace series, comes a beautiful retelling of the biblical story of the woman at the well—bringing to life this poignant young woman struggling to survive love and heartbreak.For the women of the Samaritan village of Sychar, the well is a place of blessing—the place where they gather to draw their water and share their l In the rich tradition of Francine Rivers’s Lineage of Grace series, comes a beautiful retelling of the biblical story of the woman at the well—bringing to life this poignant young woman struggling to survive love and heartbreak.For the women of the Samaritan village of Sychar, the well is a place of blessing—the place where they gather to draw their water and share their lives—but not for Mara and her family. Shunned for the many sins of her mother, Mara struggles against the constant threats of starvation or exile. But Mara and her mother, Nava’s lives are forever changed with the arrival of two men: Shem, a mysterious and wealthy young man from Caesarea, and Jesus, a Jewish teacher. Nava is transformed by Jesus, with his talk of forgiveness, but his teachings come too late and she is stoned by the villagers for her past sins. Desperate to save her mother, Mara and Shem embark on a journey to seek Jesus’ help—a journey that brings unexpected love and hope, despite great difficulties. In The Well, debut novelist Stephanie Landsem brings to life the culture and people of Jesus’ day, skillfully demonstrating how redemption can bring about the life-changing effects of forgiveness and love.

30 review for The Well

  1. 5 out of 5

    Marian Baay

    Mara is a fifteen year old Samaritan girl who lives with her younger, crippled brother, and her mother in a small clay house in Sychar. Nava – Mara's mother – is mentally unstable and unable to care for her children. So now Mara is trying to take care of her mother and brother. She is scorned in the village because of her mother's sins. Life is not easy for her. A pagan man named Alexandros stops by their house once in a while to stay the night with Nava. No one may know, because Nava will surely Mara is a fifteen year old Samaritan girl who lives with her younger, crippled brother, and her mother in a small clay house in Sychar. Nava – Mara's mother – is mentally unstable and unable to care for her children. So now Mara is trying to take care of her mother and brother. She is scorned in the village because of her mother's sins. Life is not easy for her. A pagan man named Alexandros stops by their house once in a while to stay the night with Nava. No one may know, because Nava will surely be stoned if they ever find out. Mara often worries about it and tries to persuade Nava to turn Alexandros down next time. Shem is a young man from Caesarea where he received a good education and where he could live a good life…if only he hadn't gotten himself into trouble. His father is sends him away to his grandparents in Sychar. Once there, he rescues Mara from three boys who bully her on her way to the well—and in doing so he makes his first enemies in Sychar. One day Nava is going to the well where she meets Jesus. He knows all about her husbands and doesn't condemn her. She receives new life at the well and is changed. But the village people refuse to believe she's changed—they really want to punish her for her sins. When something bad happens to her mother, Mara is called in a dream by Jesus. Meanwhile Jesus has left Sychar and has gone elsewhere. Mara and Shem go after him—together they travel from Sychar to Nazareth and further. On the way they get into several dangerous situations… Will they find Jesus? Will her mother get healed? And what is the reason Jesus called Mara to come to him? I enjoyed this book immensely! It is hard to believe this is a debut novel. The writing is excellent; the author has a pleasant voice, the plot is very well done, the characters are so real, easy to love, and easy to identify with. From the first till the last page, this book is a pure delight. I highly recommend this book!

  2. 5 out of 5

    Heather Gilbert

    I just finished this novel and it was so intense! I'll never look at the woman at the well the same way again. Landsem did a wonderful job drawing us into her world and showing us, through the eyes of her daughter, why this woman had so many husbands and such a difficult life. I also appreciated the biblical way Jesus was portrayed in this story. I didn't see the ending coming, but it was a gripping twist. Looking forward to Landsem's next book, The Thief!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Gwendolyn Gage

    Teenage Mara works hard to take care of herself, her crippled little brother, and her depressed mother, and wishes for the days when her mother didn't sleep all day, the days when her brother's father lived with them. It's only a matter of time before the villagers discover her mother's most recent sin, and when they do, the food will stop coming. They might even be driven from their home. Trouble finds Shem wherever he goes, and this time, its set him up for a lifetime of olive-picking in Sychar Teenage Mara works hard to take care of herself, her crippled little brother, and her depressed mother, and wishes for the days when her mother didn't sleep all day, the days when her brother's father lived with them. It's only a matter of time before the villagers discover her mother's most recent sin, and when they do, the food will stop coming. They might even be driven from their home. Trouble finds Shem wherever he goes, and this time, its set him up for a lifetime of olive-picking in Sychar with his grandfather. Well, long enough for the Romans to calm down and stop looking for him in and around Caesarea. But trouble finds him even in Sychar, and this time it has the face of a beautiful girl with jade-amber eyes. I expected the main character to be the woman Jesus conversed with in John chapter four, but it was rather her (fictional) daughter, Mara (though the well scene was done in the mother’s POV). I also expected the book to climax with Jesus’ crucifixion at the end, as the back cover specified “a journey that brings unexpected love and unimaginable heartbreak”. My hat is off to an author brave enough to write a story incorporating Bible stories involving Jesus. I was a little wary of how Jesus might be stretched to fit a work of fiction, and was delighted with a careful echo of Scripture surrounding His comments/replies (though one of His replies to the woman in John chapter four was omitted and put into a later fictional scene). The author wasn’t afraid to use her imagination in the story, which proved satisfying on the fictional side, but a bit jolting as it strays from Sychar's response to Jesus in John 4:40-42. As I reached the end, my feelings about the story were mixed and muddled. “Unimaginable heartbreak”, is the right description, but it didn’t involve the crucifixion scene. I have to hand it to the author, she really surprised me. And while a good and impactful ending, it did not leave me with happy sighs as I turned the last page. Rather it made the characters memorable, and gave me lots to ponder. In case I sound too disappointed, I do plan on picking up "The Thief", which revists a few of the characters introduced in "The Well". When you come across an author who proves herself a master storyteller of a genre you love, and delivers pacing, action, and tension-layering in way that makes you want to study her work, you're not going to let an unexpected ending keep you away from more. Especially when so many other authors out there are predictable. Yes, you find those masters of plot twists and you hang on to them... :-P I would recommend the “The Well” to those who can enjoy Biblical Fiction with some improvisation, fans of Francine Rivers, and those who enjoy stories they can’t predict.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Sally

    The Well is the debut novel by Stephanie Landsem, but you’d be forgiven for thinking otherwise. I’ve read fiction regarding the woman at the well before, and I was curious to read this take by an unknown writer. We know little about the woman, except that she was a Samaritan with a dubious past. Who was she? What was her past? What happened to her after her encounter with Jesus? With so little known, there is freedom to create a fascinating story. But how similar would this version be to the oth The Well is the debut novel by Stephanie Landsem, but you’d be forgiven for thinking otherwise. I’ve read fiction regarding the woman at the well before, and I was curious to read this take by an unknown writer. We know little about the woman, except that she was a Samaritan with a dubious past. Who was she? What was her past? What happened to her after her encounter with Jesus? With so little known, there is freedom to create a fascinating story. But how similar would this version be to the others already out there? The answer is, not much. Landsem has taken a different direction from the norm. Her focus is not so much on the woman but on those around her. How did her actions impact her family? Was it still possible for them to love her despite having had five husbands and then a relationship with a sixth man? How did the Samaritan community regard her and her family? Did her sins mean her family was also forsaken and treated like outcasts? How did they react when she came into the village talking of having met a man who knew everything about her? Did they believe her? And what did they think about the Jewish man who had spoken so freely with her? In The Well, Landsem responds to these questions with a beautifully detailed narrative. The first half of the book details the life Mara has in Sychar and her interactions with the other villagers and Shem, who is a newcomer. The second half is about the journey Mara makes to find Jesus. She believes he can heal her mother’s horrific injuries. Shem accompanies her, only because he is looking to atone for his only trouble. He doesn’t believe Jesus is who he says he is, but he wants a way for Nava’s accusers to pay for their actions. When they finally catch up with Jesus, however, it is Shem who receives a message from the Nazarene. What will it take for Shem to listen and believe? The striking final chapters and epilogue give us the incredible answer. Thank you to Howard Books for my free copy of The Well, which I received in exchange for an honest review.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

    I enjoyed this Biblical fiction novel. It had a different twist to it than other versions I've read. In this book the main character was the daughter of the woman who went to the well in Samaria -- the one who said Jesus told her everything she'd ever done -- not the woman herself. There were a lot of tense moments in the story... but at times Mara got on my nerves. She was such a worrier, and very stubborn. The way the author had several different stories going at the same time was cool, and the I enjoyed this Biblical fiction novel. It had a different twist to it than other versions I've read. In this book the main character was the daughter of the woman who went to the well in Samaria -- the one who said Jesus told her everything she'd ever done -- not the woman herself. There were a lot of tense moments in the story... but at times Mara got on my nerves. She was such a worrier, and very stubborn. The way the author had several different stories going at the same time was cool, and the way they were merged together when Shem met Mara worked well. The scene with Nava at the synagogue was pretty intense. At that time I grew to admire Mara's faith and her pursuit of Jesus. The people in their town were cruel and judgmental, but I suppose that self-righteous attitude is pretty prevalent with a lot of religious people. I liked Shem a lot. The tension between him and Mara was well done. Poor Mara had no clue that he would be fond of her as a woman. Even though in theory I should not have liked how things turned out in the end, I was satisfied with the resolution. The twist with Shem was pretty cool. I'm sure that's all fiction, but I still liked it. I would recommend this novel to people who enjoy Biblical fiction and don't mind a lot of improvising with the facts. There are a lot of stories that don't have the details needed to make a complete novel. As long as it goes with the culture of the times, I enjoy seeing how different authors use the setting to bring out different points.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Regina Jennings

    Stephanie Landsem's The Well gives us an unforgettable character in Mara, a young woman shunned and harassed because of her mother's sinful choices. Determined to provide for her crippled younger brother, Mara must rely on the begrudging charity of the townspeople, but the unexpected attentions of a stranger provokes jealousy she can't afford. Wanted by the Roman government, Shem has fled Caesarea to hide at his grandfather's farm in the village of Sychar, but trouble seems to always find him. He Stephanie Landsem's The Well gives us an unforgettable character in Mara, a young woman shunned and harassed because of her mother's sinful choices. Determined to provide for her crippled younger brother, Mara must rely on the begrudging charity of the townspeople, but the unexpected attentions of a stranger provokes jealousy she can't afford. Wanted by the Roman government, Shem has fled Caesarea to hide at his grandfather's farm in the village of Sychar, but trouble seems to always find him. He must respond to injustice, even if he doesn't always respond wisely. Will his rash actions hurt those he's trying to protect? I can't tell you how excited I am about this book. Although familiar with the first century stigma against adultery I never stopped to consider the social implications for the children of an adulterous woman...and these women almost certainly would've had children. Landsem takes a story that you think you know and leaves you breathless with unexpected discoveries. I found myself stunned with the turns in the story and setting the book down to reflect and pray before I could go any further. This is a book you'll tell your friends about.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Anne Campbell

    I do love a good Biblical fiction--and this is one great Biblical fiction! Mara is the daughter of the Biblical woman at the well, Nava, and the sister of a cripple, Asher. Many of the people at Sychar have decided they should be shunned. Nava because she sent her husband away and indulges in things she shouldn't; Asher because he is crippled, and it must be because he or his mother deserve punishment; and Mara by association. Shem is the son of a wealthy Jewish merchant and a Samaritan mother and I do love a good Biblical fiction--and this is one great Biblical fiction! Mara is the daughter of the Biblical woman at the well, Nava, and the sister of a cripple, Asher. Many of the people at Sychar have decided they should be shunned. Nava because she sent her husband away and indulges in things she shouldn't; Asher because he is crippled, and it must be because he or his mother deserve punishment; and Mara by association. Shem is the son of a wealthy Jewish merchant and a Samaritan mother and the possessor of a hot temper and arrogance that doesn't endear him to the Romans in Caesarea. A fight with two soldiers one night first to protect a woman about to be raped and then to protect his younger brother results in the violent death of one of the soldiers. Now Shem's father must send him to Sychar, to his grandparents, to hide. Shem is mortified, at least until he catches a glimpse of Mara.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

    Wow. This is a fictional retelling of the Samaritan woman Jesus meets at the well in Sychar, yet it is so much more. Although very few other characters in this story are actually mentioned in the Bible, the way the author wove their stories together was fascinating. The book is very, very bittersweet, in a way that reminds us that this world is not our home, and the greatest treasures are found in heaven, not on earth. I highly recommend it.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jen

    I don’t know if I’ve ever cried while reading a book...until now. This one got me good!

  10. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Johnson

    Title: The Well Author: Stephanie Landsem Pages: 284 Year: 2013 Publisher: Howard Books The Well is an intriguing story that is set in biblical times in the Samaritan village of Sychar. Mara has been taking care of herself, her sick mother and her crippled brother since she was eight years old. She cooks, cleans, plants a vegetable garden and tends it, gets water, raises goats, weaves wool into thread to barter for food and much more. She is now of marriageable age, but knows no one in the village w Title: The Well Author: Stephanie Landsem Pages: 284 Year: 2013 Publisher: Howard Books The Well is an intriguing story that is set in biblical times in the Samaritan village of Sychar. Mara has been taking care of herself, her sick mother and her crippled brother since she was eight years old. She cooks, cleans, plants a vegetable garden and tends it, gets water, raises goats, weaves wool into thread to barter for food and much more. She is now of marriageable age, but knows no one in the village will want to marry such a poor girl with a lame brother and scandalous mother to take care of as well. Her mother, Nava, has been married five times and currently “entertains” a pagan from a nearby town some evenings. Mara lives in fear that the people of Sychar will find out about her mother’s visitor and stop their charitable donations to her family so they will starve to death or exile them from the village. Mara has lived with persecution because of her mother’s deeds all her life, but most of the people have still tried to help out she and her brother when they could. What will happen when they find out about her mother’s latest goings on? Will she be forced to marry a shepherd old enough to be her grandfather in order to provide food for her brother and mother? Nava is still beautiful at age 30. She, however, does nothing to take care of her children. She sleeps most of the day and when she is awake just sits and stares at the wall. She has been like this since the birth of her lame son, Asher. She begins to think her children would be better off without her. One day when they are visiting her sister, she forces herself off of her pallet and walks to the city well. She is almost to the point of throwing herself into the well, which would make it ceremonially unclean and force the villagers to walk quite a distance for water and in her mind, is just revenge for how they have treated her and her children. Just as she is poised over the lip of the well, a man asks her for a drink of water. She is surprised and astonished enough at this man talking to a Samaritan woman that she complies with his request. Soon they have a conversation that will change her life. Shem arrives in town as a spoiled, rich, young man to stay with his maternal grandfather until the trouble he created in Caesarea blows over. His grandfather thinks he is there to learn about the olive farming business so his grandfather will have a male heir to take over when he dies. Shem only plans to be there a few months, but says nothing about this to his grandfather. Shem has always had a tender spot for the underdog and jumps in without thinking to defend the downtrodden. He rescues Mara from some village youths and thus begins their friendship. Will it develop into something more? When the most difficult decision of his life has to be made, can Shem release his vengeance and give his whole heart and soul to Jesus? Can Mara, who has come to believe fully Jesus is who he claims to be, do what is best for everyone with the choice she must make? This is just a wonderful story of self-sacrifice, total surrender to God, journeys taken and lives forever changed. The depths of the character development are compelling. I found it fascinating to think about the different aspects of this story, the historical accuracy and events as well as “what might have been”. I would recommend reading this very entertaining story, and I’m looking forward to the author’s next book, Siloam. My rating is 4 stars. Note: I received a complimentary copy for an honest review of this book. The opinions shared in this review are solely my responsibility. Other reviews can be read at http://seekingwithallyurheart.blogspo... . Also follow me on Twitter @lcjohnson1988, FaceBook at https://www.facebook.com/lisa.johnson...

  11. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen (Kat) Smith

    Ever since reading The Thief, Stephanie Landsem's second novel in The Living Water Series, I felt I missed out on her debut novel, The Well. I was so impressed and lost in her novel, I had to read this one just to see where it all began and to satisfy the longing in my book lover's heart. You know when you find an exceptional author, you have to pick up everything they write. I was not disappointed in my discovery. Thank you to Howard Books for generously sending me this copy to read and review Ever since reading The Thief, Stephanie Landsem's second novel in The Living Water Series, I felt I missed out on her debut novel, The Well. I was so impressed and lost in her novel, I had to read this one just to see where it all began and to satisfy the longing in my book lover's heart. You know when you find an exceptional author, you have to pick up everything they write. I was not disappointed in my discovery. Thank you to Howard Books for generously sending me this copy to read and review without any monetary compensation for a favorable review. One of the things that make Stephanie's novels so exceptional is she doesn't leave out any details when taking a known event from the Bible and expounding on the details that we don't know. Given that very little is known about the Samaritan women at the well that Jesus encounters, I love how Stephanie elaborated on what her life must have been like to bring her to that fateful life changing encounter we all know about from the Bible. In the novel The Well, the reader is transported back in time to the Samaritan village of Sychar, where we find ourselves meeting the famed adulterous woman, Nava who is once again bringing much shame and disgrace not only to the village but more importantly to her daughter Mara and her disabled brother Asher. Knowing that her mother has completely lost sight of what this could bring to her family if anyone discovers what she is doing, Mara takes on the role of the mother, providing for the care and feeding of her mother and Asher. Since they are among the poorest in the village, they are only able to get by with the charity of the women in town who leave whatever they can spare so Mara and Asher won't go hungry. But Mara knows the charity will only last for so long as she manages to care for her family any way she can. Fate intervenes when Jesus comes to the town of Sychar and meets Nava at the well. Just when it looks like things will get better for their family, those in the town that seek revenge instead of grace won't stop until they ensure that the laws of God are upheld in town. But once her mother is brought before the court, will there be anyone willing to stand up for righteousness against the odds? You just might be surprised at how well Stephanie writes the conclusion of her debut novel. I received The Well by Stephanie Landsem compliments of Howard Books, a division of Simon and Schuster Publishers for my honest opinion. The one thing I didn't realize is how she will preserve some of these characters for their reprising role in The Thief. I don't want to spoil it for you but trust me, if you love Biblical Fiction, you will definitely want to pick up The Well and The Thief. This is such an exceptional journey because you feel as though you're not just reading the story but actually living there. Just the violent act of stoning is something I am glad we don't do any longer and it seems it would be a painful and slow death at the hands of people who believe their are justified in their actions. This reminds me of mob-like vigilante's of the ancient days. I easily give this a 5 out of 5 stars in my opinion.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Sara

    The story of the Samaritan woman at the well is one of the most well-known conversations of the Gospels. In addition, the conversation is the longest Jesus has with a woman. Clearly, there is meaning in the account. Landsem's dramatic novel recounts what that woman's story might have been like, through the eyes of her daughter. Filled with lush imagery, complex characterizations, and unexpected twists, The Well is a powerful testament to the power of divine Grace. This novel moved and inspired m The story of the Samaritan woman at the well is one of the most well-known conversations of the Gospels. In addition, the conversation is the longest Jesus has with a woman. Clearly, there is meaning in the account. Landsem's dramatic novel recounts what that woman's story might have been like, through the eyes of her daughter. Filled with lush imagery, complex characterizations, and unexpected twists, The Well is a powerful testament to the power of divine Grace. This novel moved and inspired me, brought me to tears and brought a deep sense of peace. I particularly like that the quotes from Jesus are all directly from the Bible – no interpretations or additions. The only complaint I have is that I had to complete it! Thank goodness Landsem wrote two more in the series – even if they focus on different individuals.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    The Well is the debut novel by Stephanie Landsem. Set in the small Samaritan village of Sychar, The Well is about a young girl named Mara, who is shunned from the community because of the sinful past of her mother, Nava, who is the woman at the well found in John 4:1-42. Mara takes care of her younger, disabled brother as well as her home, while her mother struggles with a life of sin and the depression and despair that accompanies it. While life is hard for Mara, her faith in God is strong, and The Well is the debut novel by Stephanie Landsem. Set in the small Samaritan village of Sychar, The Well is about a young girl named Mara, who is shunned from the community because of the sinful past of her mother, Nava, who is the woman at the well found in John 4:1-42. Mara takes care of her younger, disabled brother as well as her home, while her mother struggles with a life of sin and the depression and despair that accompanies it. While life is hard for Mara, her faith in God is strong, and she often prays during her work and throughout her day. She grows strong in character and virtue, despite her difficult life. Life begins to change in Sychar when two men arrive. The first man is Shem, who is wealthy and worldly. He moves in with his grandparents, Abahu and Mechola, to help them in their olive grove. Throughout The Well, we learn of Shem’s past, his desire for justice and his struggle with faith. He is drawn to Nava’s beauty, and various situations continue to put them together. Then, there is Jesus, who miraculously cures Nava of her depressive state and forgives her of her sins. She is a new woman and a transformed mother, after her encounter with Jesus, and she joyfully shares her experience with the entire town. This, of course, causes quite the uprising, and after Jesus leave Sychar, many townspeople still want Nava to pay for her countless sinful acts, which results in a sentence of stoning. Mara is desperate to save her mother, and she knows the only way to do that is to find Jesus, the Tehab, which is what the Samaritan people call the Messiah. She sets out to find Jesus, with the help of Shem, and their journey brings them more adventure, love, heartache and sacrifice than either of them could have imagined. The Well is an absolutely beautiful story about faith, love, hope, trust and surrender. It is adventurous, moving and inspiring. I could not put it down, and I did not want it to end, as I read the last several pages through tears of overwhelming joy, heartache and compassion for these characters. What I loved most of all was Stephanie’s beautiful way of writing a story about unconditional love so strong that we are willing to sacrifice our own hopes and desires for the good of another person and for the glory of God. If you enjoy historical fiction and/or Biblical fiction, The Well is a must-read! Add it to your list and start reading today! (It would make a great read for Lent!)

  14. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    I've read the biblical story of the woman at the well, recorded in John 4, enough times for it to become familiar. Maybe too familiar. Which is why I appreciate what Stephanie Landsem has done with her debut novel The Well. (Disclaimer: I received a free copy of The Well from Howard Books in exchange for my review.) In it, we meet Mara, a teenager taking care of her crippled brother and despondant mother, in first-century Samaria. The mother, Nava, we will later discover is the biblical woman at I've read the biblical story of the woman at the well, recorded in John 4, enough times for it to become familiar. Maybe too familiar. Which is why I appreciate what Stephanie Landsem has done with her debut novel The Well. (Disclaimer: I received a free copy of The Well from Howard Books in exchange for my review.) In it, we meet Mara, a teenager taking care of her crippled brother and despondant mother, in first-century Samaria. The mother, Nava, we will later discover is the biblical woman at the well who talks with Jesus and receives living water. That scene is uniquely imagined by the author and led me to look at the biblical passage in a new way. And that's only part of the story. Nava is living sinfully in the village and Mara has almost no prospects of marriage. They struggle to find enough food to eat and they survive mainly on the charity of the other villagers, who equally despise Nava and feel sorry for her children. Then an outsider comes to the village, a man named Shem who has come to his grandfather's olive farm to escape for a time while he's hunted by Romans for killing a soldier. Shem has a soft spot for the weak and those treated unjustly. He finds himself unintentionally intertwined with Mara's future. When Jesus visits their village and speaks with Nava at the well, her life is changed and the course of Mara and Shem's future is set in motion. The ending, I think, will surprise you. Landsem presents a believable picture of life in first-century Samaria, and the liberties she takes with familiar biblical accounts is refreshing. The Bible leaves a lot to our imaginations, and it's fun when an author chooses to fill in the gaps. The plot is plausible and captivating. The Well is Landsem's first novel, but it won't be her last. Look for more imaginative biblical stories from her in the future. For more about the author, visit her at http://www.stephanielandsem.com/.

  15. 5 out of 5

    LeAnne

    The Well is so much bigger than a love story. Mara is the daughter of the outcast Woman at the Well who meets Jesus in John chapter 4. Mara has tried to keep her little family together as her mothers struggle with depression causes her to act foolishly and bring shame on the family until the day she meets Jesus. Shem is a spoiled brat from a wealthy Hellenized family in Caesarea. Exiled by his father for fighting Roman injustice, Shem finds more than he bargained for in Sychar. Not only does he The Well is so much bigger than a love story. Mara is the daughter of the outcast Woman at the Well who meets Jesus in John chapter 4. Mara has tried to keep her little family together as her mothers struggle with depression causes her to act foolishly and bring shame on the family until the day she meets Jesus. Shem is a spoiled brat from a wealthy Hellenized family in Caesarea. Exiled by his father for fighting Roman injustice, Shem finds more than he bargained for in Sychar. Not only does he fall for this beautiful girl, but she leads him to the Tahebthe Restorer for whom faithful Samaritans have waited for hundreds of years. Shem is a cynic. Changing his mind about Jesus will change everything. Landsems story is incredibly well researched. Her powerful writing makes readers feel like they are experiencing first century life. Her characters are like us in their complicated motivations and frailties. We desperately want them ride off into the sunset to live happily ever after. The ending left me sobbing, not for two human lovers, but for the much bigger, richer story that Landsem evokes of the Lover of my soul who invites you and me to participate in his grand Restoration plan. That love story can cost everything. But then it cost Jesus his life. He considered his plan worth it. This is Landsems debut novel. I cant wait to see what her profound faith, meticulous research and superb storytelling skills will bring us next. Im sure it will be more than a story. It will be something to shake how we think about our faith. [I received a free copy of the book from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion.]

  16. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth Ludwig

    Stephanie Landsem breathes fresh life and understanding into the story of the woman at the well. Under her skilled pen, the characters, the setting, the history of ancient Samaria spring to life. The book was wonderful, with beautiful storytelling and perfect timing throughout. I actually shivered at Jesus's appearance at the well. I heard his voice so clearly, and knew immediately who was speaking because everything leading up to that moment was so perfectly orchestrated. I woke up the next mor Stephanie Landsem breathes fresh life and understanding into the story of the woman at the well. Under her skilled pen, the characters, the setting, the history of ancient Samaria spring to life. The book was wonderful, with beautiful storytelling and perfect timing throughout. I actually shivered at Jesus's appearance at the well. I heard his voice so clearly, and knew immediately who was speaking because everything leading up to that moment was so perfectly orchestrated. I woke up the next morning still thinking about the story. That is exactly the kind of effect we all want our books to have. We all hope that our stories leave something with the reader, and that they are challenged or changed to look more deeply at themselves because of our words. The Well is a debut to stir the soul. - Elizabeth Ludwig, Author of No Safe Harbor

  17. 5 out of 5

    Becky

    Beautifully crafted! I have to confess that Biblical women's fiction is not (usually) my cup of tea. But this novel sucked me in and had me in tears -- TEARS! -- toward the end. I rarely cry over a novel. When I do, my emotions have truly been stirred. The Well is based on the Biblical story of the woman at the well. In this novel the story unfolds through the perspective of the woman's teenage daughter, Mara. I was fascinated by the glimpse the story gave me into the way that the people of that t Beautifully crafted! I have to confess that Biblical women's fiction is not (usually) my cup of tea. But this novel sucked me in and had me in tears -- TEARS! -- toward the end. I rarely cry over a novel. When I do, my emotions have truly been stirred. The Well is based on the Biblical story of the woman at the well. In this novel the story unfolds through the perspective of the woman's teenage daughter, Mara. I was fascinated by the glimpse the story gave me into the way that the people of that time lived and worshipped. Secondary characters include Jesus, his disciples, Mary, and more. I can only imagine what a lively discussion a church book group might have over this book. :) It's a very thoughtful read, full of sorrows and struggles as well as joys. Congratulations on a wonderful debut novel, Stephanie Landsem!

  18. 4 out of 5

    Barb

    This historical novel is centered on the story of the Samaritan Woman at the Well, but contains much more of Jesus' story as well as subplots involving Roman soldiers, marriage customs and the first Christian martyrs. Author Stephanie Landsem has woven these elements together in a compelling novel. The unlikely pairing of Shem, a scholar from Caesaria who has run afoul of the Romans and Mara, the daughter of the woman at the well, makes for an excellent story with some surprises in the plot. Var This historical novel is centered on the story of the Samaritan Woman at the Well, but contains much more of Jesus' story as well as subplots involving Roman soldiers, marriage customs and the first Christian martyrs. Author Stephanie Landsem has woven these elements together in a compelling novel. The unlikely pairing of Shem, a scholar from Caesaria who has run afoul of the Romans and Mara, the daughter of the woman at the well, makes for an excellent story with some surprises in the plot. Various elements of the life of Jesus become part of the novel as it builds toward an unexpected and satisfying ending. Highly recommended.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Janet

    I won this book from goodreads to review it and throughtly enjoyed it. I think it was an awesome book :) Held my attention and I didn't want to stop reading :) Mara The daughter went above and beyond keeping the home running, garden growing and taking care of her mom Nava and her crippled brother Asher. I hated to see the the main people in the story go through the abuse that they did by other "christians" ,"friends", and other people in and about their village. I enjoyed the miracles that were pref I won this book from goodreads to review it and throughtly enjoyed it. I think it was an awesome book :) Held my attention and I didn't want to stop reading :) Mara The daughter went above and beyond keeping the home running, garden growing and taking care of her mom Nava and her crippled brother Asher. I hated to see the the main people in the story go through the abuse that they did by other "christians" ,"friends", and other people in and about their village. I enjoyed the miracles that were preformed by JESUS. It was all in GOD'S plan .

  20. 4 out of 5

    Kalena

    The woman at the well has always been an intriguing Bible story. The way the author made this come alive was remarkable. Not only did I enjoy the new aspects created, the faithfulness of characters contrasted well with those who had fallen away from God's law and spoke to our sinful nature. This story had so many facets to it--action, drama, romance, Biblical truth... It was a wonderful and riveting novel. Thank you, Stephanie Landsem. Highly recommend.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Misty Doughty

    Wow, wow, wow. This is an amazing book that has left me thinking about it long after I finished. I have nothing negative to say!

  22. 4 out of 5

    Patricia

    Very surprised by the ending. First I was sad, then happy, then sad again, and finally happy. Truly remarkable characters with strong faith. I would like to be more like them.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Aimee

    Landsem's novelization of the Samaritan woman at the well is thought-provoking. How did that woman end up with five husbands and a lover? What if she had children--how would their mother's choices affect them? Did the village change after Jesus' visit? What if these people interacted with other biblical figures, too? I enjoyed the overall story, along with the insights into the regional landscapes, cultures, and religious/interpersonal tensions. The reasons I gave the book only three stars are be Landsem's novelization of the Samaritan woman at the well is thought-provoking. How did that woman end up with five husbands and a lover? What if she had children--how would their mother's choices affect them? Did the village change after Jesus' visit? What if these people interacted with other biblical figures, too? I enjoyed the overall story, along with the insights into the regional landscapes, cultures, and religious/interpersonal tensions. The reasons I gave the book only three stars are because there's more "telling" than "showing," the characters can fall a little flat or two-dimensional, there's quite a bit of repetition, and the author relies on some Christian tropes/turns of phrases that can seem cheesy or anachronistic. For example, one character says that another character looks "lost," like he's searching for sonething greater--but I hadn't gotten that impression of the character by his thoughts and actions. Later, a new disciple says that his faith is "like a tiny mustard seed"--a clear allusion to a parable, but one that the character hasn't heard. Overall, though, an enjoyable read.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Lisa James

    First off I really applaud the direction the author took this novel. The moral is clear: Following the will of God many times means giving up your own will and desires. And the sacrifice can be painful The characters in this novel really went through that and the readers really felt it. It's one of those books where you think you can predict the ending but then there are unexpected twists. The only thing I wished was that the author kept Shem as a character of his own, as a representation of any First off I really applaud the direction the author took this novel. The moral is clear: Following the will of God many times means giving up your own will and desires. And the sacrifice can be painful The characters in this novel really went through that and the readers really felt it. It's one of those books where you think you can predict the ending but then there are unexpected twists. The only thing I wished was that the author kept Shem as a character of his own, as a representation of any unsung hero, willing to give his life at this time during the rise of Christianity. I didn't feel it was necessary to equate him to a real person in the Bible. Especially based on what we know about the real person, I don't know if the development was believable. I feel like she could have kept everything about Shem's character the same, even the epilogue, but just not have him as the "first of many" but "one of many." It would have been equally as powerful but maybe more relateable.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Pat

    I finished "The Well" this morning. I absolutely loved this book. It touched my heart and my emotions. I glanced down & had tear drops on my reading glasses lense. The Well is set in the early days of Jesus ministry. Mara's mother is shunned by the townspeople and Mara and her brother are treated poorly because of her mother's reputation. This is not your typical Christian historic romance. I had never heard of Stephanie Landsem as an author and someone recommended this book to me at a used book I finished "The Well" this morning. I absolutely loved this book. It touched my heart and my emotions. I glanced down & had tear drops on my reading glasses lense. The Well is set in the early days of Jesus ministry. Mara's mother is shunned by the townspeople and Mara and her brother are treated poorly because of her mother's reputation. This is not your typical Christian historic romance. I had never heard of Stephanie Landsem as an author and someone recommended this book to me at a used bookstore. Since I retired I can't afford to buy all my books new. I bought The Well used but I will be buying her other books new. She is definitely an author I want to follow and read whatever she writes. She will bring you into the story and keep you so focused that you will forget where you are. Think sacrifice, love, putting others before yourself. All opinions are my own & no one asked me to leave this review. When a book is this good I just want to share it with others.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Pam Walker

    For the women of the Samaritan village of Sychar, the well is the place where they gather to draw their water and share their lives—but not for Mara and her family. Shunned for the many sins of her mother, Mara struggles against the constant threats of starvation or exile. But Mara and her mother, Nava’s lives are forever changed with the arrival of two men: Shem, a mysterious and wealthy young man from Caesarea, and Jesus, a Jewish teacher. Nava is transformed by Jesus, with his talk of forgive For the women of the Samaritan village of Sychar, the well is the place where they gather to draw their water and share their lives—but not for Mara and her family. Shunned for the many sins of her mother, Mara struggles against the constant threats of starvation or exile. But Mara and her mother, Nava’s lives are forever changed with the arrival of two men: Shem, a mysterious and wealthy young man from Caesarea, and Jesus, a Jewish teacher. Nava is transformed by Jesus, with his talk of forgiveness, but his teachings come too late and she is stoned by the villagers for her past sins. Desperate to save her mother, Mara and Shem embark on a journey to seek Jesus’ help—a journey that brings unexpected love and hope, despite great difficulties. This telling of the meeting of Jesus and the Samaritan women is very well done. She shows the power of redemption and love in the lives of her characters.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Melissa

    I'd say 2.5 stars. I enjoyed the beginning fine and was in tears at the very end, but the middle got very very very slow for me. I didn't want to give up on the book because of such great reviews. Right when two of the main characters take up all the plot, it just flopped for me. I had to skim a hundred pages, I think. There was chapter after chapter of both characters having inner monologs of doubt over and over. It was a little annoying to have to read... Especially since they were both being I'd say 2.5 stars. I enjoyed the beginning fine and was in tears at the very end, but the middle got very very very slow for me. I didn't want to give up on the book because of such great reviews. Right when two of the main characters take up all the plot, it just flopped for me. I had to skim a hundred pages, I think. There was chapter after chapter of both characters having inner monologs of doubt over and over. It was a little annoying to have to read... Especially since they were both being stubborn and hard on themselves. But once other characters got back into the plot, it picked up again. I have enjoyed Lynn Austin's biblical fictions much more, but I might try another one of Stephanie Landsem. The ending was really really great and unexpected. I thought it was really a beautiful message at the end. The book just needed better editing in the middle.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Ana Lopez

    I really loved this book. I really enjoyed reading about this authors’ perspective of the biblical story of the Samaritan woman. I think this book really gives a plausible idea of what might have happened. I really loved Mara, after living such a hard life, she doesn’t give up. She has her struggles but her spirit, her faith and her sacrifices are mind blowing and very inspiring. I also liked reading about Shem and his struggles with his pride and his refusal to obey God, but at the end his acce I really loved this book. I really enjoyed reading about this authors’ perspective of the biblical story of the Samaritan woman. I think this book really gives a plausible idea of what might have happened. I really loved Mara, after living such a hard life, she doesn’t give up. She has her struggles but her spirit, her faith and her sacrifices are mind blowing and very inspiring. I also liked reading about Shem and his struggles with his pride and his refusal to obey God, but at the end his acceptance to God’s calling was beautifully written. I can’t tell you how many times this book made me cry. The ending is sad and very unexpected but at the same time so heartbreakingly beautiful. I definitely look forward to reading more books from this new to me author.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Sammie Porter

    Connecting the dots...as it was so shall it be again Mara..daughter of Java, the woman at the well, getting living water from Messiah. Like Mara/Naomi, a woman who's life leads to Messiah and restoration. Shem, whose blood waters the church. All is connected. All flows to those that love HIM. As it once was with Naomi, one considered "outside" becomes HIS. Absolutely fantastic, thought provoking and clearly planned with only good in mind (now where have I heard that before?😊). Once started, it wi Connecting the dots...as it was so shall it be again Mara..daughter of Java, the woman at the well, getting living water from Messiah. Like Mara/Naomi, a woman who's life leads to Messiah and restoration. Shem, whose blood waters the church. All is connected. All flows to those that love HIM. As it once was with Naomi, one considered "outside" becomes HIS. Absolutely fantastic, thought provoking and clearly planned with only good in mind (now where have I heard that before?😊). Once started, it will be finished as well as immensely enjoyed.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Angie Swonger

    A new perspective on the Woman at the Well -- from her daughter's point of view. I'd never thought of her having children or what the decisions of her life would have meant to a younger generation. More so, what her deliverance meant to her children. Like today, there can be a cycle ... and it can be broken. This book also opened my eyes to another reason why she may have gone to the well in the middle of the day when no one else was there.

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