St. Teresa's Online Book Club, I read Stephanie Landsem's The Well. Before selecting the next book, the leaders of the club had a survey as to whether we wanted to continue with a non-fiction book (as we had with every other book) or if we should mix it up and have a Catholic fiction book. I responded non-fiction, but then started to think about how much I do miss fiction. A couple of years ago I shifted almost exclusively towards reading non-fiction books about the Catholic faith as that was the natural area of highest interest, leading to those books always rising to the top of my what to read next stack. After the book was announced as the next pick and someone made a comment that she was the one who wrote the fictional narratives in Walk in Her Sandals, I was even more excited.
As a middle school teacher, I loved historical fiction. Reading Landsem's book reminded me of just how much I love the genre - seeing how she took historical evidence documented in The Bible and then filled in a novel length exploration of what might have happened before and after the scene of the woman at the well. She also added in details of the actual encounter between Jesus and the woman, adding a new depth to how that life changing experience might have felt like from the woman's perspective. Another element that I loved is that I had never really imagined the woman as a mom, nor pictured what it would be like to be her children and what their context must have felt like. Novels from multiple perspectives often capture my attention as well, and I enjoyed that this novel switched back and forth showing the thought process of different main characters through third person point of view.
It is hard writing about the book because some of the elements that I most want to talk about would be spoilers; however, I can mention that it was suspenseful and hard to put down after getting to a certain point. Laurie Halse Anderson wrote about why the genre would more aptly be called historical thrillers and this definitely fits Landsem's style. Without giving away the ending, I can say that it spoke to my heart. It perfectly aligned with the Gospel reading the weekend I finished the book, so I had been tossing around what ended up being a central concept for the book in my mind. I appreciated that the character's lives and contexts provided inspiration for how to authentically live aligned to the Gospel. I look forward to reading more of Landsem's books.