“An Echo in the Darkness” by Francine Rivers.
5 out of 5 stars.
An Echo in the Darkness is the riveting conclusion to Francine River’s fabulous novel “A Voice in the Wind”, and is the climactic ending of Marcus’, Julia’s, and Hadassah’s stories. An Echo in the Darkness is beautifully written, and will surprise its readers as to how just one small person like Hadassah can affect so many peoples’ lives, and in turn, an empire. Sometimes one voice can be louder than many, and it, small as it is, can make a greater difference than a thousand others which stand against it. It starts with one.
Marcus is changed in An Echo in the Darkness. Sure, he is still enigmatic and has his tempting looks, but it is just a shell, a ruse to deceive those who don’t care to look any deeper than the flesh. He is drawn into himself, now that his beloved Hadassah is gone, and shuns the social interactions which he had once found so stimulating. After enjoying Hadassah’s pure and quiet company, he finds that those gatherings are now just raucous chaos and are dissatisfying. Marcus Valerian now prefers quiet, albeit dark, solitude to his friends’ drunken revelries, at least people he had once called friends. With Hadassah, he had tasted the finest of all delicacies, but now the dust of despair fills his mouth. Life no longer has meaning, wealth and pleasure are worth nothing, and his life is of no value to him. When she died, he too would have been better off dying with her is what he believes, for every day is another death. Life without her is a life without hope, and a life is no life at all without the hope of love. But a powerful force seems to have an entirely different plan for Marcus in mind. Marcus Valerian, owner of an entire trading empire, eventually decides to travel to Judea, with the hope in his heart of seeing and touching the places where Hadassah had been. He wants to breathe the same air she did, be where she had been, find some kind of peace and rest for his soul, if he even has one, to quench the torment that burns in his heart. But instead of finding peace, he encounters many unexpected trials. Nearly dying after being attacked by zealots and left to rot in a wadi, Marcus tries to find the meaning to why he was ever created. Does life really have meaning, or is it all smoke and mirrors? Taken down a path and on a journey he never could have anticipated, Marcus begins to wonder if he had really only been just seeing Hadassah’s inner beauty, or if he had glimpsed something more withing her? Would he have been able to love Hadassah had this thing not been in her? And would she have been irreversibly different without it?
Hadassah is alive and well. Alexander Democedes, an aspiring physician, could have killed Hadassah via vivisection, but instead decided to risk his own life by taking her from the Colosseum. For that, Hadassah is eternally grateful to her newfound friend, but she has paid dearly because of his choice, too. Hadassah now lives in chronic pain from her wounds, and exists in a constant state of sorrow over the loss of Marcus. But she is not hopeless, nor is she ungrateful for what Democedes did. Hadassah had believed that she was meant to die in the arena, was even at peace with it, but He apparently had different plans for her life. With the help of her friend, Hadassah recovers physically if not entirely emotionally; soon she also becomes, with the help of her Lord, a renowned healer. Hundreds come to see Rapha, the Healer, and Hadassah and Alexander eventually are called to a very rich idol makers home in the hopes that they will be able to save his wife’s and baby’s lives. Just in time Hadassah and Alexander Democedes arrive and save both of their patients’ lives. As more and more people come to Alexander to see and hear from “Rapha”, it becomes difficult to cater to all of them in the little rented room near the baths, which had become Alexander’s practice. Moving to a bigger place is the only option. But with their move also comes trials. Very unluckily, Democedes’ practice comes to the notice of one of Julia Valerian’s remaining slaves. Wary of the woman who nearly cost Hadassah her life, he does not aspire to help Julia comfortable during her terminal illness, an illness her own actions have caused. Although Alexander does not wish to help her, Hadassah feels compelled to fulfill the promise she had made to Phoebe Valerian to protect and serve her mistresses daughter. It was time to finish what she had begun over seven years ago. But can she endure Julia’s constant whining? Can Hadassah conquer her fear, and tell Julia who she is, tell her all is forgiven? And where is Marcus, and why does he never come to visit his beloved sister?
Julia Valerian is very much herself in An Echo in the Darkness. Selfish, insolent, ignorant of others’ feelings, and empty, Julia is herself, only worse. The demons she fought while her devoted slave, Hadassah, was with her now consume her every waking moment. With no goodness or true beauty in her life, they have free reign in her selfish existence. Julia is sinking quickly into the mire she has created for herself and she has no one to save her. Cast off by her brother and estranged from her mother–all due to her own choices–she battles her deadly illness alone, alone that is, until the mysterious Azar comes to stay with Julia. Azar has recently become famous, along with her friend, Alexander Democedes, for her miraculous healing “powers.” Can she heal Julia like she has all the others? And why does Azar stay when Julia treats her so terribly? Even Julia wonders!
An Echo in the Darkness has many impacting moral concepts, and Francine wraps things up very well with each character. The end brought more than a few tears to my eyes because of its bitter sweet ending. Even if you don’t enjoy Christian fiction, give this book a try. An Echo in the Darkness (like A Voice in the Wind) is one of my absolute favorite books, and is also a cherished possession. I only hope that you, too, can be as blessed by this beautifully redemptive story as I was, and still am every time I read it.