Francine Rivers

A Voice in the Wind

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A Voice in the Wind Summary

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Francine Rivers’ 1993 Christian novel, A Voice in the Wind, takes an unflinching look at the persecution of early Christians under the Roman empire. In the 20th anniversary edition of the book, Rivers says, “I became fascinated by the early martyrs and how they had the courage to die for their faith. So I decided to begin the story in AD 69-70 with the […] destruction of Jerusalem [….]” The novel’s protagonist, Hadassah, relies on the strength of her faith to withstand what follows.
Hadassah lives with her family in Galilee. They are devout Christians, and Hadassah’s father, whom Jesus resurrected from death as a child, preaches his faith on the streets. It’s for this reason the family visits Jerusalem during Passover, just as the Romans lay siege to the city. Hadassah’s parents and siblings are killed. Hadassah survives but is captured and taken to Rome to be sold as a slave. Presumed Jewish, Hadassah is purchased by the wealthy Valerian family. Decimus, the patriarch, and his wife Phoebe make Hadassah the personal servant of their high-spirited teenaged daughter, Julia.
The narrative, which alternates between characters, moves to Germania, where the Chatti tribe is staging a revolt against Roman rule. Having quashed the rebellion, the Romans take captive a young warrior named Atretes, who is eventually sold to a Roman gladiator trainer. Atretes is contemptuous of the Romans and only takes the oath of the gladiator under threat of castration. He is subsequently very successful in the arena.
Back in the Valerian household, Decimus argues with his son Marcus about the 22-year-old’s career path. While his father urges him to pursue political office, Marcus, driven primarily by selfish and hedonistic desires, fancies a lavish life as a merchant. Julia envies her brother’s freedom to indulge his passions and begins to chafe against her gender-based restrictions. To curb their daughter’s restlessness, Julia’s parents match her in marriage with a 60-year-old widower, Claudius.
This is an ill-fated union. Julia feels no affection for Claudius and prefers to occupy herself by watching the gladiators train at the “ludus.” Claudius, meanwhile, takes a scholarly interest in Hadassah’s Christian faith, which she practices covertly because the Romans are hostile towards Christianity. It isn’t long before Claudius dies in a horse riding accident, and Julia falls under the spell of Calabah, a woman with mighty powers of manipulation. For his part, and against his will, the womanizing Marcus falls in love with Hadassah, and she returns his feelings.
Calabah introduces Julia to the handsome, charismatic Caius. They marry, but soon thereafter, his ugly side emerges. He physically abuses Julia and sleeps with other women. Hadassah, despite her enslavement, is fond of Julia (as if the whole Valerian family) as she heeds Christ’s call to love her enemies. She protects Julia when Caius, in a fit of rage, attacks her. Julia is then distressed to discover she’s pregnant. Ever-ready to interfere in Julia’s affairs, Calabah encourages her to abort the pregnancy, and, following that, kill Caius with poison. Witnessing Julia’s tribulations, Hadassah prays for her.
A widow once again, Julia goes back to her parents’ house. Decimus’ health is deteriorating and there seems to be no cure. He is receptive to Hadassah’s Christian beliefs. When she reads to him from the Bible, it eases his suffering. Decimus decides to return to his hometown of Ephesus, so the family packs and moves. Atretes also travels to Ephesus at this time to compete in a match that will decide his future freedom. As a gladiator enthusiast, Julia has admired Atretes from afar. When she learns he’s in town, she schemes to catch his attention by masquerading as a prostitute at the temple of Artemis. It works, and they begin a passionate affair.
Decimus’ health declines rapidly. On his deathbed, Decimus listens to Hadassah openly testify her faith in Christ, and before dying, he accepts Christ as his Savior. Marcus cannot comprehend Hadassah’s spiritual devotion, although it gives her the very radiance he’s drawn to. He warns her that any public expression of her beliefs could jeopardize her life. Their desire for each other intensifies, and Hadassah prays that Marcus will embrace Christianity.
Atretes handily dispatches his competitors in the gladiator ring, intent on winning his freedom so he can marry Julia. But Calabah has other plans. She warns Julia that a union with Atretes would hamper her lifestyle. She then convinces Julia to marry Primus, Calabah’s homosexual friend, arguing that this match would let Julia retain more power. After winning his freedom, Atretes goes to Julia planning to propose, only to discover she’s wedded to Primus. Julia explains the marriage is only one of convenience, and furthermore, she’s pregnant with Atretes’ child. Furious, Atretes refuses to participate in such an arrangement and ends their relationship. Julia gives birth but rejects the infant and tells Hadassah to dispose of the baby. Hadassah gives the baby to a Christian woman whose own son has recently died.
Marcus tells Julia he loves Hadassah and wants to marry her, Julia agrees to release her from servitude. Hadassah loves Marcus, too, but she cannot pledge herself to a man who rejects Christ. With great difficulty, she refuses him. Indignant that Hadassah would turn down her brother, Julia tricks Hadassah into publicly revealing her Christian beliefs. This seals her doom: she’s sentenced to face lions in the arena with other criminals. Before entering the arena, Hadassah sees Atretes and tells him where he can find his son. The lions maul Hadassah as she prays to Jesus.
A Voice in the Wind is the first book in Rivers’ trilogy, The Mark of the Lion. The second book, Echo in the Darkness, continues the story of Marcus, Julia and Hadassah, who, by the grace of her God, does indeed survive the lions. As Sure as the Dawn ends the trilogy with a return to Atretes and his search for his son.