Cover image for Passing by Samaria
Passing by Samaria
Foster, Sharon Ewell.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Sisters, Or. : Alabaster, [2000]

Physical Description:
382 pages ; 21 cm
Format :


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When the discovery of a schoolmate's lynched body puts her own life in jeopardy, Alena is sent by her parents from her beloved Mississippi home. With thousands of other African-Americans, Alena begins making her way north to the Promised Land of turn-of-the-century Chicago. On the way she meets two men who will dramatically impact her life: James, a young African-American believer determined to establish a newspaper in Chicago, and Pearl, a man with questionable intentions. A stirring novel by an exciting new writer, Passing by Samaria beautifully shows readers the path to truth, purpose, reconciliation, and joy.

Author Notes

Sharon Ewell Foster is a single mother of two, a former Defense Department employee, and an expert trainer and public speaker, making her home in Maryland. She also writes devotionals for Daily Guideposts and for the soon-to-be-released Women of Color Devotional Bible.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Alexander, the pen name of a husband-and-wife team, one of whom is an emergency-room physician, delivers Sacred Trust, a first novel about a young emergency-room physician, Lukas Bower, practicing in a small town in southern Missouri. Bower, a Christian, tolerates no compromise in the ethical practice of medicine: not from an older, respected doctor who makes a minor mistake; not from the drug-seeking son of a board member; and not from a child abuser, also a powerful man in the community. Although Alexander's doctor is heroic, he's human. He's shy around women, untactful, and naive. This is a tough-minded and convincing novel, free of soap opera. Among other things, Beld's quaintly titled A Gentle Breeze is about the inadequately appreciated role of churches in resettling Cambodian refugees in the late 1970s, when the Khmer Rouge spread its reign of terror. Beld alternates the story of a liberal Christian couple who gradually become involved with refugees with the composite stories of a number of them. Notably, there's Ang Lee, a young woman brutalized in a Khmer Rouge camp who finally escapes to Thailand and then to the U.S. by agreeing to marry a family friend. Beld's book is strangely organized--it's fiction but contains news summaries, an interview with the author, and chapter notes--but it's upbeat, moving, and even rather poetic. Foster's Passing by Samaria is a rarity in Christian fiction: it features an African American heroine in a kind of female Black Boy. As blacks die in France in World War I, a Mississippi high-school girl, Alena, discovers a schoolmate's lynched body, suspects that the white sheriff is involved, and cannot silence her outrage. For her own protection, her parents send her to live with an aunt in Chicago. This "promised land" is perilous, but Alena dabbles in journalism and finds a good man to marry. The impending marriage brings her home to Mississippi, and simultaneously the white sheriff is himself killed in a "hunting accident." In a beautiful, deeply religious series of scenes featuring aggrieved blacks, the sheriff's family, and a young white minister, atonement and forgiveness are achieved, and there is hope for racial harmony. This is a fine first novel and most welcome. Huffey's The Hallelujah Side is a subtle literary novel featuring Assembly of God Pastor Winston Fish's family of Ames, Iowa, from the point of view of his younger daughter, Roxanne. Roxanne's older sister, Colleen, shows signs of leaving the faith; the family moves to Pasadena; and Roxanne achieves salvation with some help from Aretha Franklin. That's the entire story, but Huffey is extremely funny, much like Marilynne Robinson in Housekeeping in her mad, circular dialogues and deft characterizations. The Reverend Fish, for instance, attempts to refute Das Kapital line by line with Scripture. All the Fishes feel pursued by demons and suspect that the Second Coming will occur by noon. A quirky, slight, and, by turns, hilarious and poignant first novel. Jenkins' Though None Go with Me, first in the Three Rivers Legacy series, will draw interest because Jenkins, with Tim Lahaye, is author of the Left Behind series, a cult hit about the Antichrist and Judgment Day. This is the much more sedate story of Elizabeth LeRoy, a woman who dedicates her life to the service of God and allows nothing, not even romance, to sway her. In Jenkins' hands, her tale is lively enough, though it will prove too preachy for some, and, at the least, it's a far cry from the apocalypse of the Left Behind series. There's plenty of apocalypse in Marzulli's Nephilim, featuring his ingenious explanation of the infamous UFO sighting--and alleged suppression of the story by the air force--in Roswell, New Mexico. Art Mackenzie, a newspaper reporter who's been boozing ever since the death of his son, and whose father disappeared at Roswell, stumbles onto a secret ward of a Southern California hospital where mental patients speak of aliens, giants, UFOs, etc. Mackenzie is off to Israel and Peru to solve the mystery, and, yes, it turns out that aliens are among us. They are the Nephilim, an ancient, mysterious race described in Genesis, on Earth again prefiguring the Second Coming. Clever and compulsively readable. Spangler's She Who Laughs, Lasts! brings together 73 short shorts and vignettes by women on subjects such as married life, mothers, Christmas, raising kids, and growing old. It's a collection looking for an Irma Bombeck; unfortunately, none of the writers is really very funny, but all offer wholesome, upbeat wisdom, much like that of Kay Allenbaugh's Chocolate for a Woman's Soul (1997). For ministers, there are some anecdotes and clean jokes here that could round out a sermon. Turner's By the Light of a Thousand Stars is the sturdy, small-town tale of catty Catherine Biddle, the middle-aged matron of a proper-seeming middle-class family riven with purposelessness and emotional fatigue. When a new family moves in across the street who are disorderly and unconventional but full of love for one another and God, Catherine learns again the lesson of her youth: love and a generous spirit are the only means to happiness. Series updates: From Zondervan, Vanished (paper, $12.99, 0-310-22003-3), second in the J. D. Stanton series of supernatural mysteries by Alton Gansky; Fields of Gold (paper, $9.99, 0-310-22369-5), the second in Lisa Samson's historical romance series, Shades of Eternity; and Words of Honor (paper, $10.99, 0-310-21759-8), third in the popular Terri Blackstock's Deep South mystery series, Newpointe 911. From WaterBrook: Angela Elwell Hunt finishes her Heirs of Cahira O'Connor series with The Emerald Isle (paper, $11.95, 0-310-21759-8). From Bethany: Kathy Tyers' science-fiction novel Fusion Fire (paper, $10.99, 0-7642-2215-5), sequel to Firebird (paper, $8.99, 0-7642-2214-7); and Michael Phillips' Heathersleigh Homecoming ($17.99, 0-7642-2237-6, or paper, $12.99, 0-7642-2045-4), third in his Secrets of Heathersleigh Hall series.

Library Journal Review

Growing up in Mississippi, Alena had been sheltered by parents who didn't want her to know how cruel the post-World War I world was to black people. But finding the lynched body of her best friend J.C., who had just returned from the war in Europe, changes Alena and destroys her faith in God. A gifted writer, Alena wants to tell the world what happened, but her parents, knowing that she would be the next one hanging from a tree if she did, send her to live with an aunt in Chicago. As Alena struggles to comprehend how a loving God could let this nightmare happen, two men come into her life: one with the power to save her, the other with the power to destroy her. In this first novel, Foster's poetic telling is soft enough to capture and sharp enough to cut as she evokes the strength of faith needed to survive when all seems lost. This unique addition to the Christian fiction genre is highly recommended for all collections. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

School Library Journal Review

YA-Alena Waterbridge is sent to her aunt's home in Chicago after her childhood friend is lynched in the woods of her Mississippi home. Alena, innocent yet outspoken, feels that justice must be done and that being part of the Great Migration north is unmerited punishment. However, this story takes place in 1919, a time when racism and bigotry ruled the day. After her arrival, she covers up her bitterness, pain, and fear with anger toward everyone with whom she comes into contact. While taking in the sights of Chicago's South Side, she is admired from a distance by Major James Pittman, who is a World War I hero, a leader in the community, and an aspiring newsman. When the inequalities of this segregated world come to a head, the city experiences a riot. In between all the violence and mayhem, Alena begins to shed the armor that she had so carefully donned. Her faith in God rescues her from the weariness and hurt that she had so eagerly embraced. Seeking to make peace with her parents, Alena returns to Mississippi before marrying Pittman, and realizes the meaning of forgiveness and mercy. In this debut novel, Foster succeeds in showing readers that faith, hope, and love are still beliefs that people trust to weather the torrential storms that invade their lives. Her style compares with Bebe Moore Campbell's in Your Blues Ain't Like Mine (Putnam, 1992). This inspirational novel with believable characters and attention to detail will speak to readers throughout every page.-Connie Freeman, Ivy Tech State College, Fort Wayne, IN (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.