Title: A Voice in the Wind
Author: Francine Rivers
Genre: Christian Ficiton
Intro and Characters in A Voice in the Wind
The book opens with the ruthless destruction of Jerusalem from the perspective of a young Christian Jewess, Hadassah, decades after Christ walked the earth. Through the introduction of the its central characters, it slowly winds its way from Jerusalem into Germania and finally into Rome, which serves as the setting for the majority of the story.
The book centers on the stories of a handful of characters with interconnected relationships. Each character represents a facet of Roman civilization during that time: Hadassah as the fearful Christian; Marcus, Julia, Octavia, and Antigonus as the licentious younger generation; Phoebe and Decimus as the conservative and vanishing older generation; Callabah as the progressive voice fully succumbed to corruption; Atretes as the captured slave satiating Rome’s expanding worldly appetite.
Given the amount of time Francine Rivers dedicates to fleshing out each, especially Hadassah, Marcus, Julia, and Atretes, there’s no question that the characters are the most memorable and appealing experience of A Voice in the Wind.
A Voice in the Wind’s Connection to Larger Society
What fascinates me is that these facets of Roman civilization exist today in our own. Throughout A Voice in the Wind, we, along with the characters, sense that Rome is marching towards inevitable doom. After finishing this book, I can only wonder how much more can we say the same for our own society?
Despite fitting within the Christian genre, many of the scenes depicted in the story portrays lurid outbursts of sexual passion and violence, from Atretes’ battles in the colosseum to Julia’s tempestuous affairs. For me, I find them indispensable to the story not just for plot purposes but because they make it more real. Francine Rivers doesn’t hold back from the dirty and gasp-inducing but she doesn’t revel in them either. She includes them because they painfully exist in real life.
Integral to the plot and the themes of the story are the gladiatorial games. Through them we see declining Rome’s character with the sharpest clarity. Stripped of the morals that had once governed the public conscience, sex, power, and bloodlust are all that remains of this once great civilization. Much like how Marcus and Julia think only of themselves, Rome too has lost all its humanity, thirsting for blood, succumbing to their darker passions, and glorifying those with the highest kill streaks.
In a way, I see Rome as River’s way of emblematizing the entire world and all of history. Without God, humans have come to worship themselves out of pride, allowing the whims of their desires to blow them to and fro in search of momentary satisfaction. Just as the characters in A Voice in the Wind search fruitlessly to satiate the emptiness in their hearts, so too do people today and yesterday and forever till when Christ comes to reign.
A Few Critiques of A Voice in the Wind
One complaint I’ve read from a few other reviews is that the first third of the book devotes too much time to historical details that though enriches our understanding of the context, doesn’t meaningfully advance the plot or deepen our connection with the characters. While I do admit that she does opens with a hefty amount of history, it does not, in my opinion, hinder the development the story. We still meet the characters, tension bloats, and the plot progresses all the same.
One thing I think she could have altered to tighten the storylines was establishing Atretes’ relationship with the other characters near the beginning rather than the end. Sometimes when we return to his perspective, it feels disjointed from the others simply because he’s not yet directly involved in their conflicts nor are they involved in his. Nevertheless, I find him a valuable addition to the story because he offers a firsthand peek into how the games function.
A Closer Look at Hadassah
Ironically, the only character with peace and who experiences full satisfaction throughout is Hadassah, a slave with virtually no worldly possessions nor power. Nevertheless, she’s not without her struggles. We see even from the beginning that her greatest weakness is fear of man and fear of persecution. She states it herself when she compares her faith to the rest of her family’s.
What I love about Hadassah’s arc is how subtly it develops. She doesn’t change overnight—none of the characters do. Like a real human being, struggling to overcome their fears, Hadassah changes slowly, almost imperceptibly, yet it’s obvious when she begins shedding that spirit of timidity. Which is why pacing is something else I love about this story. Francine Rivers never rushes things, whether that be a character’s feelings for another or a character’s descent into darkness. I wouldn’t say things unfold at a sleepy pace since flight and action do pepper the story. They just reflect how change often occurs in real life—gradually and over time.
One thought that kept revolving in my head as I went through the story was would my faith stand a chance if I was placed under the same conditions as Hadassah? When I hold up the challenges I’ve faced against all that she endured, mine pale in comparison. Just as I become crestfallen, I remember that Hadassah overcame her obstacles with simple grace, humility, and love not by her own strength but out of the strength God endowed her through the gospel. There’s no use playing dozens of “what-ifs” in my head, but there is everything to be gained in continuing to seek a deeper relationship with Him.
I admire Hadassah’s characterization the most. She’s never shown to be the most charming, physically attractive, or intelligent, yet the people around her notice her for what she does possess–a servant’s heart, compassion, and an unyielding devotion to her God. The verse, “Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised” immediately comes to mind whenever I think of her.
A Voice in the Wind paints such a vivid image of faithful Christian living in times of hardship, want, and even peril that this is the second work of fiction that’s ever left me in tears. If this is not indicative of Francine River’s masterful storytelling, then I don’t know what else could be.
There’s no doubt that God has used this story to push me to reflect on my own faith and devotion to Him. Do I love Him more than this world? More than anything? Do I fear Him more than I fear people? Do I trust Him to take care of me even when I don’t see how He might? Do I hope in Him when my circumstances tell me I shouldn’t? Do I obey His voice, even when it is a mere whisper in the wind?
There are a million more things I wish I could discuss about this book, but that would require revealing a host of spoilers, which I don’t intend to do today. Basically, what I’m trying to say is read the book for yourself. Your perspective and experience with it might align with mine or it might land somewhere on the opposite side of the stadium. But whoever you are and whatever religious background you claim, I have no doubt that you can glean something profound about yourself, human nature, and Christianity from A Voice in the Wind.
You can grab a copy HERE.
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