I have been up to my eye sockets lately in sciencey books. And not just whimsical topics either, like how toothpaste is made or why the yo-yo turned into a fierce legal battle. For some reason I can’t get enough lately of weighty, hopeless tomes about the cold war. You could call this recent interest my way of upholding my personal resolution to be a lifelong learner, but really it’s just because a mildly irritating bout of mono has renewed in me a sense of how much it must suck to get lymphoma from a nuclear weapons factory. So when Tyndale House Publishers sent me the twentieth-anniversary edition of Francine Rivers’ A Voice in the Wind to review, I kind of jumped at the chance to take a break and sink back into our less-depressing, distant history.
As I turned over the final page, I realized I had been right about enjoying the nice foray into history. And I was wrong about the “less-depressing” part. To put a fine point on it, Rivers is a fine writer with oodles of experience turning hearts aflutter with her work in the romance world and a more nascent talent of exploring religious fiction. In public I generally hesitate to be numbered among romance or historical fiction fans. Her book reflects, though, a reasonably on-the-mark sense of what an early Christian might have gone through for her faith, and it might strike modern American sensibilities as absurd to really have to think about the fact that a Christian could be so persecuted. A Voice in the Wind, first published twenty years ago, came at a time in Rivers’ life when her conversion to Christianity begged her look at her writing in a new way. The novel is a well-researched account of early Christians in the first century, a tumultuous period in Judeo-Roman history and one I greatly enjoyed learning. The story moves through violent and often opulent backdrops to show, essentially, our heroine Hadassah’s journey as she loses everything she loves and remains steadfast in her religion. Regardless of the reader’s religious or social background, it’s heartening to follow a character who endures so much simply because she believes in something. So even though the book is full of sword tips tearing holes in tunics or sending half torsos tumbling to the ground, there’s something refreshing in the theme of faith and love.
A little criticism, though. I mentioned Rivers’ standing as a popular novelist, but I found some of the prose lacking in literary charm. Some of the ancillary characters’ dialog bordered on hyperbole or struck me as a little too cartoonishly evil. Nevertheless, the book was written in an accessible way that kept even a literary snob like me enraptured by the plot and historical elements. So even if your walls are full of Ferber and Orwell, make room—if you like history, religion, or just a gripping read, it’s worth your time to pick up A Voice in the Wind.