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The Handmaid and the Carpenter

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The Handmaid and the Carpenter

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A beautiful novel based on the biblical Christmas story by beloved bestselling author Elizabeth Berg. The bestselling author of The Art of Mending and The Year of Pleasures, reimagines Mary, Joseph,...
A beautiful novel based on the biblical Christmas story by beloved bestselling author Elizabeth Berg. The bestselling author of The Art of Mending and The Year of Pleasures, reimagines Mary, Joseph,...
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  • A beautiful novel based on the biblical Christmas story by beloved bestselling author Elizabeth Berg. The bestselling author of The Art of Mending and The Year of Pleasures, reimagines Mary, Joseph, their falling in love, and the events of the Christmas narrative in this absorbing novel about love, a couple’s struggles, and their faith in each other. THE HANDMAID AND THE CARPENTER is the story of Mary and Joseph and the birth of their son Jesus.

 
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    chapter one

    Nazareth

    january, 4 b.c.

    Joseph

    Outside, a thunderstorm raged. a great wind frightened the animals and bent the trees low to the ground, shaking their leaves almost off their branches. But inside the house of just-married Simon and Esther, there was light and laughter. A long table covered with a striped cloth was pushed up close to the wall, and it was laden with earthenware platters decorated by palm fronds and piled high with eggplant and olives, with spit-roasted beef and lamb and fish, with rounds of flatbread, with grapes and oranges and figs and sweet cakes.

    Beneath the table, sixteen-year-old Joseph sat cross-legged in silence, watching sandals and ankles and hems of tunics go by. No one had seen him--he was almost totally obscured by the tablecloth--and he enjoyed the anonymity. He was of course a man now, but he could not resist on occasion returning to the pleasures of boyhood. This was one such pleasure: to sit hidden and watch the elders as they drank ever more wine and acted ever more foolish. In the corner, he saw old Samuel weaving as he stood with his feet far apart, trying to focus on the face before him. Wine had sloshed from his wooden cup to dribble down his mantle. "You will soon be on the floor," Joseph muttered, and was startled to hear a voice say, "I am surprised he is not already."

    Joseph turned to see a girl squatting just behind him. "You have found the seat of honor," she said. "May I join you here?"

    There was something familiar about her. "We are known to each other?" he asked.

    She nodded. "You have seen me many times. And you spoke to me when last you saw me. You came to the well when I was there last summer. I was gathering water with my mother; you were passing by with your father, Jacob."

    "Your memory serves you well. And I remember now, also. You are called Mary." She was a wonder to behold, with her black curls escaped from her braid, her cheeks flushed dusky rose, her gaze so direct and yet mysterious. She tucked her hair behind her ears, and he saw the lines of her high cheekbones beginning to assert themselves. Her lips were full and pink. He was suddenly dry-mouthed, his heart knocking about in his chest like a caged animal wild to be released.

    "Yes, I am Mary," she said. "And you are called Joseph."

    And her voice! Low and musical, laughlike. The utter completeness of her beauty was astonishing; it made for a rush of emotion in him so strong it felt like anger.

    "You have . . . grown," he told her, and his voice cracked, causing him to blush to the center of his soul.

    She appeared not to notice but instead stared calmly into his eyes. "And you also."

    "How old are you?" he asked.

    "Newly thirteen. And you?"

    "Seventeen in two days."

    They regarded each other carefully, and then he ducked down and pointed to the people before him who had joined hands and made a circle to dance. They whooped and called out to one another, stamped their feet, threw their heads back and laughed. "They rejoice so!" Joseph said, caught between wanting to admire them and to ridicule them. "It is as though King Herod has died and the Messiah has come, both together!"

    She came closer and peered from beneath the cloth to see the dancers, then sat next to Joseph. "It makes me happy, their happiness," she said, and there was in her

    simple statement a truth that made him ashamed of his

    ambivalence.

    "Of course it makes me glad as well," he said. What was...

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The Handmaid and the Carpenter
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