Living Water

( 5 )


 Sprung from the pages of The New Testament, Living Water is a gripping and lyrical portrayal of a young women's search for identity set against the strict social confines of the time. This extraordinary first novel brings to life one of the most mysterious and intriguing characters in the Bible – the woman at the well. 

In a village torn apart by senseless violence, a young girl struggles to mute her passion for life to survive the harsh social restrictions of her ...

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 Sprung from the pages of The New Testament, Living Water is a gripping and lyrical portrayal of a young women's search for identity set against the strict social confines of the time. This extraordinary first novel brings to life one of the most mysterious and intriguing characters in the Bible – the woman at the well. 

In a village torn apart by senseless violence, a young girl struggles to mute her passion for life to survive the harsh social restrictions of her people. Catapulted into a series of abusive marriages, she soon becomes a woman unrecognisable from the little girl she once was. After her fifth husband is found bloody and beaten, she emerges amid the scandal and accusations to try and reclaim her life. In the tradition of Their Eyes Are Watching God, The Color Purple and Paradise, Obery Hendricks uses both fine detail and broad strokes to crisply depict this period of early history. And in doing so, this sophisticated literary debut delivers a universal tale of liberation and reconciliation, love and faith.

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Editorial Reviews

Michael Eric Dyson
“It is hard to believe that this is Hendricks’ first trip to the literary well.”
Cornel West
“Living Water is an exemplary novel for our times. Don’t miss this book!”
Iyanla Vanzant
“A divinely inspired bridge to a new level of self-awareness. A must read.”
Christian Science Monitor
“Refreshing wit and enlightenment... you’ll never read the Gospel story the same way again. A provocative novel”
Publishers Weekly
Inspired by the New Testament vignette about the woman at the well, first-time novelist Hendricks imagines the life story of a Samaritan woman who spreads the word of God after an encounter with Jesus Christ. Growing up, Maryam is viewed with suspicion in her village; neighbors derisively call her "gibora," meaning brave and bold-qualities that girls are not supposed to have. Since the humiliating day when the Roman soldiers stripped and beat the Samaritan men in front of their wives and children, the men have treated women as chattel. When she's 12, Maryam's father marries her to Jalon, a spoiled, dissipated youth, but Jalon divorces her under the law of erwat dabar, which allows husbands to cast aside wives virtually at will. Having no other means of support, Maryam remarries four more times to a sorry collection of men, two of whom commit suicide, before finding Yeshua, a gentle, like-minded husband. She meets Jesus at the well when he asks for a drink of water, promising in return "a spring of water welling up to eternal life." Maryam is surprised that he speaks to her, as Jews don't normally have dealings with Samaritans, let alone Samaritan women. At Jesus' bidding, Maryam brings Yeshua to meet him, and Jesus sends them out to preach the word that men and women are equal under God. Hendricks has his characters speak in Southern black vernacular ("Why men treat women like that?... Sumpin wrong with women?"), which, while slightly distracting at first, is surprisingly effective. The slow-moving action and inspirational tone will turn off some readers, but those interested in biblical history will appreciate this inventive variation. (Feb.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
An unusual first novel by Hendricks, immediate past president of the Payne Theological Seminary, depicts the life of a minor character in the Gospel of St. John.

The Woman at the Well appears only once in the Gospels-in the fourth chapter of John, where Christ, asking her for a drink of water, says he can offer in return "the living water" that will satisfy her thirst for all eternity. From this brief episode, Hendricks fleshes out a fully imagined biography of the woman, named Maryam, from her early childhood during the Roman occupation to her new life as a disciple of the Messiah. He creates a portrait of an entire world, as well-one where women are treated as chattel by men who can, and do, divorce them at will. Maryam, known throughout her village as a gibora (wild girl), is a spirited and independent woman who finds wifely submission difficult-and is often discarded by her husbands as a result. Like most abandoned women of the time, she faces a stark choice-prostitution or remarriage-and most men willing to marry divorcées are no great catches. For Maryam, then, it comes as something of a shock to find that Christ not only speaks to her as an equal (no Jew of those days would have spoken to a woman in public) but also entrusts her with the mission of taking the good news of his preaching back to her village. As a disciple, she transcends role models entirely, since (as St. Paul says somewhere) "in Christ there is neither male nor female."

An intriguing idea, yet Hendricks's debut never comes to life. The device of having the characters speak in southern black patois ("They're all raggedy and boys be throwing rocks at them and people be ignoring them and everything!") isdisconcerting, and Christ himself sounds more like New Age guru ("Prepare yourselves to be vessels of love") than savior.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060000882
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 1/6/2004
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 384
  • Sales rank: 382,924
  • Product dimensions: 5.31 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.87 (d)

Meet the Author

A former Wall Street investment executive, professional musician, and competitive martial artist, Obery Hendricks is the immediate past president of Payne Theological Seminary, the oldest African American seminary in the United States. He is currently a Visiting Scholar at Princeton Theological Seminary, and a Professor of Biblical Studies at New York Theological Seminary. This is his first novel.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 6, 2007

    Ladies...and Gents...please read this!!

    This book changed my life. Well, actually the way that I look at life. All I can say is that if you've ever wondered why black men sometimes carry a chip on this shoulder, this book will help you to understand. The author used the story of the woman at the well, to help people understand the way oppression can make the oppressed oppress their own people. It's so much more I want to say, but to sum it up...if you don't read this book you're whack!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 23, 2005


    It was hard to put the book down. I just kept my interest the whole way through. I really enjoyed the book and I fell like it really changed my thinking and will change my life.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 3, 2003

    Living Water leaves you thirsty NO MORE!

    I had the great pleasure of interviewing Dr. Hendricks for Booking Matters Magazine in February 2003, however at the time, I had not finished his novel (Living Water). I am very happy to share that I recently finished the novel and was left almost speechless by it's contents. Dr. Hendricks' dug really dip to pen such a powerful account of the well known bible story of the woman at the well. Growing up in church, I've heard the story (like many of you) preached, taught probably 1,000 different ways...however, I have never pondered who this woman really was. I never thought that maybe she (Maryam) had a story. In my quest to read novels that are historically based, I could NOT have chosen a better book to begin with. Living Water gives any reader a front row seat into the life of the 'Woman at the Well' beginning with her childhood. By the end of the book, you feel as if you know her personally and you understand her reputation as having had five husbands. (you meet the husbands in the story) Reading this novel opened up a plethora of new words for me, as Dr. Hendricks is a master storyteller, gifted writer and scholar. While challenging in some parts, the more I read, the harder it became for me to put the book down. Throughout the story, original biblical names are used, which makes the story even more interesting. The character development is super and the story flows very well. Some might view this as a challenging read but one, which will leave you thirsty no more. I highly recommend this to any avid reader, male and female, clergy, book's a GREAT read. Hats off to Dr. Hendrick's for giving us insight into the lives of these bible story characters, especially Maryam. Thanks for reminding us that even the people in the bible had/have significant stories¿. I await your next novel....with great anticipation.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 23, 2003

    Attention: THIS ONE'S A KEEPER!

    This excellent first from Hendricks held my interest from beginning to end! This is an explosive journey from carefree childhood into disenchanted womanhood, while oppressed at every turn. The subject, who comes on the scene brimming with life, is soon conditioned and convicted by the society in which she lives to conform to it's laws and convenient misinterpretations of the Word of God. In the end she triumphs over the inherent conditions and people who had her so hopelessly bound! Thru failed marriages in a society that overtly oppressed women, our subject finds abundant Life when she drinks from the well of true living water! Kudos Dr. Hendricks. Looking forward to more good work!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 9, 2003

    Nourishes the Soul - Very empowering

    Obery Hendricks, a masterful storyteller, blends the biblical story of the "woman at the well" (John 4:7-29) with African American mores and experience into an examination of the effects of oppression and self-hatred on male-female relationships. Living Water places the reader in the middle of the life of the "woman at the well," an unnamed Samaritan woman with a seemingly scandalous background (five ex-husbands and a live-in), who encounters Jesus at the local well. Hendricks immediately captures the reader's imagination and holds on to it with a description of a dying man's last moments: "The blood glistens red in the dim light of the windowless stone hut, though not as red on his berry-brown skin, held taut and shining by labors and prides and hatreds and taunts, as on her cinnamon. It gushes from the neat gash staring from his fleshy throat, from beneath the thick woolen beard, in rhythmic bursts, the first high and angry and terrible, then those that follow coming slower, without the heated immediacy of the first, like angry breath mollifying." He takes the reader on a deeply moving journey through this woman's sometimes painful and troubling life in a male-dominated society. When her loving grandmother, Ma Tee, dies, she must learn how to navigate and survive the customs and rules designed to control her without her primary source of love, wisdom, and refuge. Local custom forces her to marry the highest bidder and places her at the mercy of the first of five very difficult husbands. Circumstances and cultural dictates force her to move from husband to husband and leave her emotionally broken and nearly destroyed -- until she decides to fight back and take charge of her life. She ultimately finds the strength that enables her to heal, forgive, and embrace a man and community with true love and spirit. Obery Hendricks' first novel is a celebration of womanhood, the healing power of love and forgiveness, and the resilience of the human spirit.

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