In The Space Between Words by Michele Phoenix, Jessica and two friends in Denver take a vacation to Paris. Though they’ll do some sight-seeing, they are mainly there to scout out treasures at antique stores and flea markets.
But then Jessica is shot during the Paris attacks in 2015. She’s traumatized by all she saw in the attacks. When she heals enough to be moved, she wants to get out of Paris as quickly as possible.
But one of her friends talks her into staying, at least for a little while. In one flea market, Jessica find an antique sewing box that seems to draw her. Back at her room, she discovers a secret compartment in the box which contains several sheets of handwritten paper and a few pages from an antique French Bible.
A new friend helps Jessica translate the ancient French. The sheets held the writing of a young woman named Adeline Baillard in 1695. She and her family were Huguenots when the Catholic King outlawed their faith and sanctioned torture and persecution against them. Adeline’s family gets her sister and brother and his family out, but Adeline stays with her parents. She’s a teacher and wants to help her students as much as she can while there is time.
As Jessica reads Adeline’s words, she feels compelled to find what happened to her and her family, especially her sister. Her own healing and mental and spiritual health are wrapped up in Adeline’s fate. She can’t understand how Adeline could believe so strongly in a God who would allow such atrocities to happen.
I’m sorry to say that I had completely forgotten about the Paris attacks of 2015. The year isn’t given in the novel, but the details seemed more reality than fiction, so I looked up and read more about them in Wikipedia.
This is the first book of Michele’s I have read, and I was captivated. So much of the story is touching, but subtle humor is sprinkled throughout as well. One surprise twist was heart-wrenching.
Just a few quotes that stood out to me:
I knew he worried, as I did, that that part of my life had been amputated by fear.
Father held what remained of our Bible in both hands and declared, “This is the Truth that binds us to each other and to God. These are the words exhorting us to faithfulness and strength. These are the pages that emancipated our faith from the dictates of a King. We will carry them with us as a testament to our resistance, as a reminder of all the Huguenot community has endured” (p. 115).
My grandmother believed in the power of words, in the capacity of story to transcend both time and place. This scroll is evidence of the temerity of her escape, a tribute to the ancestors who lost their world to save their faith (p. 288).
There were a couple of odd places where a child seemed to see someone who wasn’t there. But other than that, I loved everything about this book.
I appreciate your review! I don’t read a lot of fiction, but I’m beginning to find more time for it. This sounds like a book I would enjoy.
Thank you! I hope you can find this one. It’s really good.
I enjoyed your review and it made this sound like a compelling read! I too found myself wondering if I remembered the 2015 Paris attacks. The Notre Dame fire came to mind … I’ll have to look the attacks up and maybe that will jog my memory. I do love it when books like this help some aspect of history come to life for me.
Me, too. Both the situation in Paris and with the Huguenots were not very familiar to me, and books like this bring those settings to life.
Sounds like a good book. Thank you for the reivew!
You’re welcome. 🙂
Pingback: March Reflections | Stray Thoughts