Hendricks, Obery M(ack), Jr. 1953-
HENDRICKS, Obery M(ack), Jr. 1953-
Born April 9, 1953. Education: Princeton Theological Seminary, M.A.; Princeton University, Ph.D. Hobbies and other interests: Martial arts, playing jazz and blues songs on guitar.
Agent—c/o Author Mail, HarperCollins Publishing, 10 East 53rd St., 7th Fl., New York, NY 10022.
Theologian, minister, educator. Investment advisor, New York, NY, 1977-86; Payne Theological Seminary, Wilberforce, OH, former president; New York Theological Seminary, currently professor of biblical studies; Princeton Theological Seminary, visiting scholar.
Living Water (novel), HarperSanFrancisco (San Francisco, CA), 2003.
Obery M. Hendricks, Jr. worked on Wall Street for more than a decade before he saw the need for changing his life's direction. In an interview with Larry Reeves for the Memphis, Tennessee, Tri-State Defender, Hendricks said that on Wall Street "after awhile I started feeling empty, like I really wasn't making a contribution." He earned a Ph.D. from Princeton University, and then accepted the position of president of Payne Theological Seminary, the nation's oldest black seminary. Hendricks later left Payne to became a professor of biblical studies at New York Theological Seminary.
Hendricks's first novel, Living Water, is a retelling of the New Testament story according to St. John of the Samaritan woman who offered a traveler water from a well. The traveler, Jesus, then offered her "the living water" that would satisfy her for eternity. In his story, Hendricks provides a history of the woman he calls Maryam, although the Bible says little about her other than she was married five times and was living with a sixth man. In his account, Maryam grows up fiercely independent in a village where the men, who are mentally and physically beaten down by the Romans, take their frustrations out on their women and children. Hendricks's theme is that the cycle of domestic abuse is set in motion when men who are humiliated react by treating the people they love in kind, a pattern that eventually seems normal and necessary. Maryam marries five times, the first time is an arranged marriage to a man who casts her aside when he is tired of her. After four more failed marriages, she finds Yeshua, a kind and gentle man. After the meeting at the well, Jesus tells Maryam to bring Yeshua to him, and then instructs them to go out and preach the word of God and tell all that men and women are to be treated equally.
Black Issues Book Review contributor Kathryn V. Stanley observed that this debut novel is "reminiscent of Miss Celie's transformation in The Color Purple, the woman eventually liberated herself from her oppression and emerged as a catalyst for the liberation of others." Stanley further said that "Hendricks and his writing are a tall drink of water in a world where personal piety seems to overshadow a socially liberating application of the gospel and where much of the black literary fiction scene appears long on entertainment and short on substance." Ron Charles wrote in the Christian Science Monitor that Hendricks's telling of the brief encounter between Jesus and the woman "sparkles with irony and word play. It also raises a number of fascinating questions about this spunky woman who dares to banter with a strange man, confront the prejudice between their peoples, discuss her shameful marital history, and proclaim his divinity." Charles continued, saying that "Hendricks avoids both Miltonic blandness and offensive irreverence in his portrayal of the Son of God. He presents a Messiah who's at once happy and strong, loving and funny, charismatic and patient.…The arguments implicit in this biblical recreation are more social than theological, but Living Water should stir the settled deposits of anyone's devotion, clarifying one's faith even if it doesn't change it."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Black Issues Book Review, May-June, 2003, Kathryn V. Stanley, review of Living Water, p. 49.
Christian Science Monitor, March 6, 2003, Ron Charles, review of Living Water, p. 18.
Kirkus Reviews, November 15, 2002, review of Living Water.
Publishers Weekly, February 17, 2003, review of Living Water, p. 59.
Tri-State Defender (Memphis, TN), August 11, 1999, Larry Reeves, "A New Breed: Pulpit Activism" (interview), p. A1.
Washington Post Book World, March 11, 2003, Jabari Asim, review of Living Water, p. C2.