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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Book Review: "The Scent of Water"

TITLE: THE SCENT OF WATER - grace for every kind of broken
AUTHOR: Naomi Zacharias
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011, (224 pages).

[This review is simultaneously published with my main blog at YAPDATES]

With wisdom and wit, Naomi Zacharias shares her journey of learning how to cope with brokenness through her own ministry travels as well as her own personal life. She invites readers to follow her in this book, which in a way is her personal memoir and observations about a world in need of grace and healing. If you are like me, you will probably feel three particular emotions: Anger at injustice, anguish at helplessness, and appreciation for grace.

The first part of the book makes me angry. Angry at the injustice perpetrated so openly in the developing world. Angry at how broken the world has become. Angry at how women have been forced into prostitution, suffered domestic violence, while governments and institutions appear helpless against it. The second part of the book brings me anguish. Anguish about the helplessness of a broken world. Agony about how the weak and the vulnerable have been abused, and the limited help people can give.  It is the third and final part of the book that the author shares deeply and intimately about her own broken life. This final part is written in a way that the author is able to use her own sense of brokenness to connect with the broken world. Put all these together, we have a book that whether anger, anguish, or agony, there is the potential of grace that can flow into every crevice of injustice, every sign of weakness, every hint of vulnerability, and every kind of broken.

What This Book is About
This book is essentially about how grace heals, and how it is sorely needed for a broken world.  Written by one who has suffered hard knocks and broken relationships, the book gives the readers a glimpse of brokenness through the author's Wellspring ministry as well as her own life. She shares raw observations of injustice and awful abuse of the weak, detailing images of various kinds as she travels through countries such as Netherlands, India, Malaysia, Indonesia, Pakistan, South Africa, and others. The final half of the book reveals more about the author's personal brokenness, as she openly shares her struggles in finding a place to settle in, as well as her trying to piece back her own relationships, to recover her own sense of identity.

It concludes with a great story of Jacoline, a wonderful example of grace extended through Wellspring International, and to affirm again, that there is grace available for every kind of broken.

My Comments
Written in a style that is at times humourous, at times heartbreaking, Naomi shows readers that for every kind of broken, healing and redemption is possible through grace. Such grace is displayed in both the external world through her ministry of Wellspring international, as well as in her own life, through the grace extended via friends and acquaintances.

I like the way Naomi writes. She is open and honest about her struggles. She does not simply tell the reader she is angry or appalled. She shows the reader. She gives real stories. She bares out her own life and leaves it to the reader to draw their own conclusions. This book provides glimpses of hope for a seemingly hopeless situation.

Hope for women to discover their calling as intimately linked to their identity:
"The responsibility of each woman is to find the particularity of her calling, so to speak. It may be in concert with the calling of another; it may be a solitary path. But within each picture remains responsibility and opportunity of individual and epic proportion, and there is an individual triumph in distinctiveness when each woman finds the place where her own identity is secured. In this way, every life is ultimately an individual adventure of finding her place in God's plan. To surrender that is to surrender who you are." (61)

Hope through finding purpose for gaps and holes in our lives:

"The answer was not to cover up the hole. The solution was not to pretend the hole wasn't there. And it wasn't to leave the gaping chasm glaring back at us. In this case, the answer was to give it purpose." (136)

Hope for those with a scarred life:
"A scar is not the source of beauty; it can only indicate the presence of something that lies beneath its surface and guide you to its hidden depths. And in doing so, it becomes the symbol of beauty itself." (154)

It reminds us that those who have been made aware of needs, are responsible to do something about it (163).

It encourages those of us who are broken, that such experiences of brokenness puts us in a special capacity to minister to those who are broken themselves. In other words, it takes a broken to understand the broken.
"When you have hurt, you can hurt with them and tell them that you, too, have felt that burn on your skin." (170)

It is also interesting to try to understand what the author uses 'the scent of water' as a title. As I reflect, I can understand that grace is like a scent that can penetrate all cultures. At the same time, grace water can trickle down to all corners of mankind. Through scent-like penetration and water-like trickling, grace can spread to heal every kind of broken.

This is a beautiful book not because it says nice things with pretty words and prose. It is beautiful because it sees the potential of grace that can bring healing to a broken world, a grace that can restore meaning back into relationships previously broken, a grace that reminds us that in the end, the view from the top is spectacular. The world needs hope. People needs hope. Brokenness is not the end. It is a reminder that there is God, only God can make a broken world whole again.

4 stars of 5.


This book has been supplied to me free courtesy of Zondervan without any obligation for a positive review. Opinions expressed are freely mine.


  1. Hey Conrade, thanks for sharing your review! I have also read and reviewed this book on my blog. (And incidentally, we have the same bookshelf pattern on our background. :)

    I like the way you split up the sections: Anger, anguish, appreciation. It was helpful to think of it that way.


  2. Hi Rachel,

    Thank you for your comments and encouragement. Your point about the 'same bookshelf pattern' makes me wonder if it is possible to start a 'All-same-bookshelf-pattern-of-the-world-bloggers-unite' group. :)

    I'll hop over to your blog and review.