I am so pleased to be able to commend a new Biblical fiction author, Rob Seabrook, to you. I love Biblical fiction, and am in awe of the authors who bring the stories of the Bible alive, using their God inspired imagination. Rob Seabrook recently released his debut novel Beneath the Tamarisk Tree and I am honoured to be invited to be a part of his blog tour.
The Penitent Thief
How do you base a whole novel around a character that only appears for the briefest of moments in the biblical record? Someone that scripture tells us very little about – apart from a few words he spoke through the agony of his brutal execution. That is what Rob has done. He has taken for his inspiration the penitent thief, who appears Luke 23 : 39-43. His dying words to Jesus, and Jesus’ words in reply, are famous. They echo through history, and have given hope to many.
“Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.”
“Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.”
A story of hope
Beneath the Tamarisk Tree is a story of hope. But it is also a tough to read portrayal of a lost life. Rob does an amazing job of imaging a very believable past life for the penitent thief. He poignantly describes a boy growing up knowing that he was unwanted, and worse, unloved. Who finds himself scrabbling together a life on the streets of a dangerous city. Stealing to survive. Learning to feel nothing to protect his heart. Finally finding himself in the hands of the authorities and facing a death he actually welcomes.
Then he meets Jesus. He is not saved from his torment in this life, but a good part of the book explores his reunion with Jesus in heaven. How he is healed, redeemed and set free as he does indeed enter Paradise. It is a beautiful story.
Love and Mercy
I particularly love the way Rob portrays Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Love is the overriding characteristic of both. Rob also describes heaven, it’s landscapes and atmosphere. It is easy enough to picture as his descriptive writing is particularly good. Whilst I appreciated his interpretation of heaven, I found his descriptions of the city life of Jerusalem most impactful. There is a warning here, the author also describes the torture and crucifixion of Jesus and His companions in great detail. Not easy reading, but relevant to the story in comparison to the peace and joy of paradise. Not to mention the glorified resurrected Jesus.
I enjoyed Rob’s story very much. I believe it can speak hope to all who read it. And it shows Jesus, His love and mercy, so clearly and beautifully. The One who in His final moments of agony opened His heart and His heaven to a penitent thief. Our beautiful Saviour.
Ask the Author
I had some questions for Rob, and he kindly answered them for me.
‘Why did you title the book, Beneath the Tamarisk Tree?’
I mention Tamarisk trees a couple of times in the book, as they capture the imagination of the main character. In the Bible, Abraham plants a Tamarisk tree to represent peace, especially his peace with God, and one of the scenes show the main character finding Abraham’s Tamarisk tree in heaven, and discovering a sense of peace and joy from the Holy Spirit as he dances beneath the tree. So it seemed a good focus for the book – finding peace and joy under the canopy of a Tamarisk tree.
‘How did you come up with your description of heaven?’
This is a tricky area, because of course none of us will know that heaven is like until we get there, and no doubt what we imagine now is going to be far from the amazing reality that we will find. But I had to write about it somehow, so I began with the Bible, and expanded on the hints and glimpses that it offers. I also took some inspiration from the natural world that we see around us, which after all was created by God and so may be a reflection of His heavenly creations, and I then expanded on them. I tried to challenge the reader a bit and but hope that my descriptions can inspire the readers’ imaginations.
‘You chose to make the main character a street child living in abject poverty in Jerusalem. Was this something you researched, or purely from your imagination?’
A bit of both really. I was able to research what first century Jerusalem was like, for example the horrors of life under Roman occupation or the difficulties of poverty. I read that the average life expectancy for men was about 30, so it meant that many must have died in infancy or childhood, and anyone living on the streets would have had a fairly low chance of getting to adulthood. I also have some experience of childhood trauma, from being a foster carer, and have seen the impact of neglect on the mental health of young people. So I could bring in to the story some of the likely behaviours that would be seen by a child living on the streets, devoid of love. This was then coupled with me imagining the scenarios, the experiences, the difficulties and circumstances that may lead someone who was being executed as a thief, to still have just a small glimmer of faith in a Saviour, that would bring him to a point of salvation in the final moments of his life.
Beneath The Tamarisk Tree was published by Malcolm Down Publishing, Nov 2021. ISBN 978-1915046017 and is available via all good booksellers, or direct from the author himself.
Author website www.robseabrook.com
Rob is also kindly offering a free giveaway of a copy of his book to five people who subscribe to his newsletter here www.robseabrook.com/email-list/
Joy Margetts is a published author and blogger. Her books are works of Christian Historical fiction. Set in medieval Wales against the backdrop of Cistercian abbey life, they tell stories of faith, hope and God’s redemptive power. Her debut novel ‘The Healing‘ was published by Instant Apostle on 19 March 2021. Joy has also self- published a short novella, ‘The Beloved‘ as both a companion to ‘The Healing‘, and as an easy to read standalone story, which is available to buy on Amazon Kindle.
‘The Pilgrim‘, her second full length novel, was published by Instant Apostle on 22 July 2022
More information on Joy, and her books can be found here www.joymargetts.com