Biblical women have become popular subjects for historical novels, and Living Water is a superb example of why this subgenre has so much appeal. Although somewhat difficult to read because of the unrelenting misery it so effectively portrays, the novel is, at the same time, impossible to put down.
At its heart, Living Water tells the story of the Samaritan woman at the well who pours Jesus a drink of water and is offered “living water” in exchange. But this is more than a fictional biography of a nameless woman. It is a story of an oppressed people, oppressed to brokenness, humiliated to the point they can no longer find solace even in each other. Racial discrimination is the root cause: the dark-skinned Samaritans are brutalized by the conquering white-skinned Romans. The Samaritan men, helpless, degraded, and unable to protect their wives and daughters, turn from love. Filled with self-loathing, they begin brutalizing their women. The heroine of the tale, nameless for most of the book, is subjected to five marriages of increasing horror. Yet Obery Hendricks is able to paint such compelling portraits of the husbands that their heinous behavior becomes understandable, though never forgivable.
Never forgivable, and yet the Samaritan woman’s encounter at the well gives her a chance to forgive. In Living Water, Jesus’ message in placed within a historical context, but Hendricks’ style reminds us that oppression and brutality are not limited to a specific time or place. This inspirational novel shows how Jesus’ words can transcend time and place as well.