Kirkus Reviews QR Code


by Sheila Mills

Pub Date: Oct. 16th, 2014
ISBN: 978-1490856377
Publisher: Westbow Press

A study guide about the famous biblical story of the Samaritan woman at the well.

In this slim work, the author explores the Gospel passage of John 4:4-26. In it, Jesus meets a woman and asks her for water and uses the moment to teach her about God’s unconditional love and salvation. Mills, in turn, uses this tale as a metaphor for finding wholeness in times of struggle, accepting God’s love, and having patience regarding his plans. The author imaginatively brings the passage to life, reflecting on what the two actors in the story might have thought and felt and drawing out lessons for readers’ own lives. The book also provides context for readers unfamiliar with biblical history, explaining the relationship between the Jews and the Samaritans and unpacking how such details may enhance and enrich the biblical story. Mills also weaves in personal anecdotes, finding religious lessons in mundane occurrences; for example, she uses her own father’s rehabilitation of an underfed horse as a metaphor for God’s ability to make people whole again and to love them despite their flaws. Similarly, she provides engaging “Food for Thought” discussion questions, which range from the simple (“What’s your typical reaction toward having to wait for someone to show up?”) to the lofty (“In what ways do we use what imprisons us to define our freedom?”). Overall, she aims to help readers access the spiritual promise in the biblical tale, which she says is about Jesus accepting people in their “brokenness” and sin. She ends with an exhortation to the reader to “go to the well…empty…thirsty…[and] exhausted of ourselves.” Throughout, the prose is simple, clean, and readable. Study groups may find particular value in the book, both as a jumping-off point for discussion and as a gentle introduction to Bible study. It would also work well for individuals, as there’s room in the text for solitary readers to write in answers to the discussion questions.

A thoughtful, accessible, and useful religious study guide.