Two Testaments: A Novelby Elizabeth Musser
The slightest spark will ignite an explosion. The tinderbox of broken political and racial relations in France and Algeria provides plenty of kindling. And the growing friction, especially in Algeria, will soon combust. A tentative ceasefire offers little to cool the heat. And in the midst of the turmoil, Gabriella Madison guards the orphans in her care,… See more details below
The slightest spark will ignite an explosion. The tinderbox of broken political and racial relations in France and Algeria provides plenty of kindling. And the growing friction, especially in Algeria, will soon combust. A tentative ceasefire offers little to cool the heat. And in the midst of the turmoil, Gabriella Madison guards the orphans in her care, while battling jealousy when Anne-Marie Duchemin, David’s former flame, arrives in Castelnau, France. As they protect the little ones in their care amid rising discomfort in the community with the multi-cultural orphanage, each wonders who David will choose. Meanwhile, David is trapped in Algeria, caught in the turmoil of a country gone mad. He seeks a way to guard his life and, at the same time, protect the refugees he came to help. And escape seems impossible. Unable to predict what lies ahead, Gabriella and David learn that in life, waiting is the hardest part. The answers lie in two testaments.
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By Elizabeth Musser
David C. CookCopyright © 2012 Elizabeth Musser
All rights reserved.
March 1962 Castelnau, France
Poppies were springing up in the fields beyond Castelnau like bright-red drops of blood staining the countryside. Seeing the flowers, Gabriella Madison took a deep breath. Lifeblood and hope eternal.
She closed her eyes and felt a stinging sensation inside her chest. Poppies reminded her of David. And poppies reminded David of her. But now he was in Algeria, perhaps already in the company of Ophélie's mother, Anne-Marie. How Gabriella wished he were standing here beside her instead.
Ophélie's voice interrupted her thoughts. "Bribri, do you think it will be today that Papa and Mama get back?"
Gabriella shook her head, her red hair glistening like sun on the river. "Not today, Ophélie. But very soon."
Were they even now laughing together, reliving old times, catching up on seven lost years? Was David explaining what had been happening here in lazy Castelnau? Had he even mentioned her name to Anne-Marie?
They had been walking, Gabriella and a whole troop of children, toward the edge of Castelnau, where the village fanned out into farmland and vineyards. The children trailed behind their young maîtresse in pairs, holding hands and chattering excitedly. Gabriella glanced back to see Sister Rosaline, red faced and out of breath, waving from the end of the line.
"All here," the nun called out happily in her singsong French. "All forty-three."
Gabriella waved back, smiling at the children. "Do you want to go a little farther? We're almost to the park."
A chorus of Oui, Maîtresse sang back to her, so they proceeded down a narrow dirt road into a grassy sanctuary enclosed by tall cypress trees. At the far end of the field were several seesaws, some monkey bars, and an old swing set.
This walk outside the orphanage had become a daily ritual after lunch, weather permitting. Mother Griolet had hesitated at first. What if people began to question? After all, the population of the orphanage had doubled in a few short months. But Gabriella and Sister Rosaline had insisted. The new arrivals were loud, afraid, and restless. Together the children acted like pent-up animals, and they needed to be uncaged in a space larger than the courtyard inside St. Joseph.
In truth, Gabriella worried for Mother Griolet. With David away and all the new children here, the old nun's predictable schedule had come tumbling down.
"It's always this way at first," she had reassured Gabriella. "During the Second World War we scrambled for a while, but we eventually settled into a routine."
But Gabriella was not convinced. Over fifteen years had passed since that war, and Mother Griolet was no longer young. Still spry, yes, but she was suddenly looking quite old beneath her habit. Her face looked more wrinkled, and her green eyes had lost some of their sparkle.
Forty-three orphans and forty-two American college women would be plenty for an energetic young woman to handle. Perhaps too much for a woman of seventy-two.
Presently Ophélie left her friends to join Gabriella.
"Bribri," the child began, fiddling with Gabriella's long red curls, "what will it be like when Mama, Papa, and you are all here together?" She scrunched up her nose, her brown eyes shining and sincere.
Gabriella cleared her throat and stroked Ophélie's hair. "It will be a wonderful reunion, Ophélie. An answer to prayer."
"And who do you think Papa will choose? You or Mama? And who will I live with?"
Gabriella bent down beside the little girl. She hoped her voice sounded light and carefree. "Dear Ophélie. Your papa will not choose your mama or me. He will choose you! He will pick you up and swing you around, and the whole orphanage will ring with your laughter. Don't you worry now. Don't worry."
Take your own advice, Gabriella thought as she sent Ophélie off with a soft pat on the back. Two days ago David Hoffmann had kissed her—really kissed her—and then he had left on a humanitarian mission to a country gone mad. She did not want to dwell on it, for the possibilities were too frightening. Better to think of the children.
A fight broke out between two boys, and Gabriella dashed over, yelling, "Eh! Ça suffit!" She pulled the children apart, scolded them playfully, and began chasing several of the smallest boys, tagging one and calling, "You're it!" A few minutes into the game she stumbled, out of breath, to the side of the field, crushing a red poppy beneath her feet.
* * *
David Hoffmann stood at the bassin de la Joliette in Marseille. Amid the huge ferries, paquebots, and steamships, he spied a comparatively small black-and-white sailboat. The Capitaine was empty now, except for a grisly old Frenchman at the helm.
The wharf was awash in families debarking with trunks and suitcases. Adults and children alike looked confused, sad, hopeless. David shook his head. One little orphanage in the south of France sheltering a handful of pied-noir and harki children was a drop in the bucket. These people were French citizens, but where would they go? Did France want them? David knew the answer was no.
He slipped onto the Capitaine and greeted the rough sailor with a handshake.
"Bonjour," Jacques replied. "You sure you want to go back there now? It's a bad situation and is only going to get worse."
"Yes, I'm sure. I have to go."
Jacques looked at the ground. "I can't go back, M. Hoffmann. There's nowhere for me to dock. The ferries are taking up all the room. Thousands of pied-noirs are running away faster than the mistral gusts down the Rhône. If you're sure you have to go back, I advise you to take a ferry. It'll be a lot safer, and I guarantee you there'll be room—nobody's going back to Algeria."
David frowned, contemplating the sailor's words, then shrugged. "I understand, Jacques. Thank you for all your help. There are many children in Castelnau who are grateful to you."
The two men shook hands.
"Bonne chance, M. Hoffmann. You be careful now. Raving crazy, that country is. Raving crazy."
David stood on the deck of a huge empty ferry, his tall frame silhouetted against the night sky. The wind whipped across the sea. His hair blew back, his eyes squinted against the wind, and his jacket billowed and filled with air. He gripped the railing with his good hand, his other shoulder and arm bandaged and tucked inside his leather jacket.
The whitecaps rose up to touch the sky, and a thousand stars blinked back, as if flirting with the water. The sea air smelled fresh and strong. He wished briefly that Gabriella were snuggled beside him, then pushed the thought away.
He had twenty-four hours alone before he would step into a world of chaos, and he wanted to spend this one night well. The scene before him reminded him of a night on the beach one month ago. The night of his surrender, he called it in his mind. His surrender to the God of Gabriella.
There was no doubt that something inside of him had changed. In that moment he had actually felt forgiven, and too many coincidences had happened lately to deny intellectually that God seemed to be up to something in his life. He was twenty-five years old, yet he was somehow new. A new man. A new conscience. A Presence was with him. He had a suspicious feeling he would never be able to get rid of this God now even if he wanted to.
* * *
It was midafternoon at the Place du Gouvernement in downtown Algiers. The great Cathedral of Saint Philippe formed an imposing barrier between the steep, narrow roads of the Casbah and this tree-filled square that teemed with people shopping, sipping mint tea at a café, and milling about in carefree jubilation. There was a feeling of peace and security among the population of Algiers. The cease-fire to end Algeria's seven-year war for independence from France had gone into effect two days before.
The noise from the square was merry, loud, jovial. This was the Algiers Hussein remembered and loved. Seven years of war had stolen his boyhood away. At fourteen, he had seen more violence than many a soldier. He secretly longed for peace. Beyond the war, beyond the hatred.
Now was the time to breathe openly, to relax, to hope. No pied-noirs had ventured out into the sunshine today, Hussein mused with grim satisfaction. Ali had predicted they would leave en masse before official independence was declared on July 2. Algeria would be rid of the filthy French and their colonial ways.
Yet Hussein still wished he could find the woman, Anne-Marie, to placate Ali's fury. Ali Boudani was a man obsessed with revenge. He was at one moment delirious with joy, the next moment brooding with contempt. Algeria was independent, but Ali's personal mission was not over.
Hussein glanced up at the sky, hearing a noise that sounded like a plane overhead, or maybe a missile being launched. Then his body tensed. He stood transfixed in the shadow of a building as, above him, one, then two bright flashes exploded with a terrible boom in the center of the Place du Gouvernement. Debris from the street, chairs from cafés, and bodies seemed to dance on the tips of the bright flames before his eyes. For a brief moment the deafening roar of the explosions silenced the screams coming from everywhere in the square.
Clutching one another, panic on their faces, people clambered toward the shadows of the buildings, some fleeing in the direction of the cathedral. Dead and maimed lay in the center of the square; a shrill cry of agony pierced through the din of confused voices. Everyone stopped; no one dared move. Would more bombs follow?
Then almost at once, the masses surged forward to help the wounded. Arab FLN terrorists worked alongside the French police for perhaps the first time in Algiers' bloody history. Hussein watched it all. An old woman, bloodied and disfigured, collapsed against the stones of a building. Three men lay dead. The peaceful leafy square of five minutes earlier resembled a battleground. Hussein turned on his heels and fled.
It was a lie! There was no peace for Algeria! Up the layers of tangled, dilapidated buildings of the Casbah Hussein ran, until he stumbled into the oneroom office where Ali sat.
Already the Casbah was ringing with cries of indignation and fury.
"Ali! The Place du Gouvernement! Explosion!" Hussein choked on his words and took in gulps of air, his lungs burning.
Ali rose and stepped into the street as young men poured forth from their whitewashed stalls.
Other members of the FLN were already holding men back, some of them forcefully.
"Not yet! Don't run to your deaths. This is what the OAS is waiting for. Hold your ground. It's their last effort to win back Algeria."
Ali grabbed Hussein by the shoulders. "It's not over yet. You aren't afraid of bloodshed, my boy?"
Hussein gazed at him and shook his head, knowing all the while that the fear in his eyes betrayed him.
"Go then, and tell me what you see. Go to Bab el-Oued and wait. Take it all in. We must be ready."
Hussein turned and escaped through a narrow alleyway. Tears ran down his cheeks. Oh, for peace. For even a moment of peace. Then he could play as he had when he was seven and war had been only a handful of toy soldiers on the floor of his room.
* * *
A ricochet of bullets sounded in the street below the building where Anne-Marie Duchemin was staying with fellow pied-noir Marcus Cirou. She watched Moustafa hurry a young man into their building, and she quickly limped to the mirror that hung on the flaking wall. She felt a pang of despair as her reflection stared back at her. Her black hair drooped loosely upon her shoulders. She cringed at the way her protruding cheekbones accentuated her deep-set and dull eyes. Her skin looked pale and almost yellowish. She turned away.
A thick gray sweater hung impossibly over her thin frame, but she felt completely naked. David Hoffmann was about to walk back into her life, and she was not ready. Her heart belonged to Moustafa. With him, she was not afraid to be sick and disheveled. She read devotion in his eyes. But David! Her lover when they were but adolescents. She had not seen him in so long.
Suddenly she felt afraid. He was risking his life and wasting his time to help her. Why? Would he be angry to see what she had become? A pitiful, withered flower ...
The door swung wide, and David stood in the opening and paused. Anne-Marie swallowed hard and met his eyes. His six-foot-one-inch frame had filled out so that he looked every bit the grown man he was. His black eyes were softer than she remembered, and the tenderness she saw in them scared her even more. His coarse black hair was swept back away from his face, but one wisp tickled his forehead. A black leather jacket hung loosely over his shoulders. As he leaned down to set a suitcase on the floor, she noticed his bandaged arm. He straightened up, not moving forward, as if waiting for her invitation.
His mouth whispered Anne-Marie without making a sound.
Oh, you are a beautiful man, she thought, fighting to stand her ground, willing herself against running into his arms, forcing herself to forget that last embrace seven years ago when he had kissed her good-bye even as the tiny seed of Ophélie was forming in her womb.
David cleared his throat. "Anne-Marie." He said it almost reverently, and then he moved toward her, slowly, taking long strides. He reached out and touched her frail hand, then brushed her face. "My dear Anne-Marie."
She heard the sorrow, the groan of pain in his voice, the hurt for her suffering. She bit her lip and closed her eyes, but she could not keep the tears from flowing. She rested her head against his chest and let his strong arm enclose her as she sobbed like a terrified child who had been rescued at last.
Somewhere inside she watched the years of horror and death, killing and running for life, the years that had followed her happiest moments with David. If only ... if only ... The questions of a lifetime swam before her in liquid reality until they ran down her cheeks. Her feeble energy was spent. And though she had not uttered a word, she had the feeling that David Hoffmann understood perfectly everything she felt.
* * *
David was not prepared for the emotions that surfaced in him as he held Anne-Marie in his arms. He had been playing happily in his little university world while this woman lived in hell. He hadn't known. He had cared, and yet ... Even the smuggling operation in France, with all its dangers, could not compare with what he saw in Anne-Marie: true human suffering. The weight of guilt pulled on his shoulders and bound him more tightly than the sling in which his arm rested. A sick, painful anger welled up in his soul as he held her, this woman who was no more than a dried twig fallen from a branch.
God, forgive me, he prayed as she sobbed into his shirt. I had no idea. She looked more like an aging grandmother or a malnourished child than a twenty-four-year-old woman. She didn't want pity, David was sure, but pity overwhelmed him anyway. A fleeting thought crossed his mind. If only ... if only she had left with him for America. Ophélie would have been born there. They would have made it, somehow. If only ...
And then the angry why? Why? Why did life twist and turn and torture?
He stepped back from Anne-Marie and let his good arm fall to his side. A searing pain shot through his shoulder, and he grimaced.
"What happened?" Anne-Marie whispered. She touched his bandaged arm.
Silence engulfed them.
Anne-Marie wiped her eyes with the sleeve of her sweater. "I'm sorry."
"Perhaps we could sit down for a minute?"
"Yes, of course." Anne-Marie shot him a weak smile. "I'm sorry. I'm afraid I ... I'm so glad to see you, David. Thank you for coming. It's the worst time."
He gently took her arm and led her out of the room. "Moustafa is waiting for us in the kitchen."
"Yes, yes. You must be tired after your trip. Let me fix you some mint tea."
The small kitchen was dark. Moustafa Dramchini stood with his back toward them, already preparing the tea. He turned and greeted them with sullen eyes. David helped Anne-Marie to her seat as Moustafa set a tray on the table. He rested his hand on Anne-Marie's back and eyed David suspiciously.
"When do you plan to leave?"
"It's your call, Moustafa. As soon as you can arrange it."
Anne-Marie looked up. "Tell me of Ophélie. How is she?"
David relaxed and smiled. "She's fine. She's a beautiful, happy child who misses her mother very much." He reached into his pocket. "She sent this for you." He held out a drawing of a rainbow with the words I love you, Mama written in the cursive of a six-year-old.
Excerpted from Two Testaments by Elizabeth Musser. Copyright © 2012 Elizabeth Musser. Excerpted by permission of David C. Cook.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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Interesting characters. Good story line and well written landscapes. Only complaint is that too much of it was in french without a glossary. Many times the french phrases were not translated, made reading frustrating.
This was so devastating in the war parts and so tender in the love parts. It is a jewel!
Elizabeth Musser in her new book, “Two Testaments book coverTwo Testaments” Book Two in the Secrets of the Cross Trilogy published by David C Cook continues the story of Gabriella Madison. From the back cover: Love for war’s victims keeps them apart. Will love for each other see them through? The slightest spark will ignite an explosion. And the tinderbox of broken political and racial relations in 1960′s France and Algeria provides plenty of kindling. In the midst of the chaos, Gabriella Madison guards the orphans in her care while battling jealousy with Anne-Marie Duchemin, David’s former flame who has recently arrived in Castelnau, France. Even more problems arise when the townspeople start expressing their discomfort with the multicultural orphanage. They want it shut down…permanently. Meanwhile, David is trapped on the other side of the Mediterranean, caught in the turmoil of a country gone mad. He seeks a way to guard his life and, at the same time, protect the refugees he came to help. But even if he accomplishes his mission, can he get out of Algeria alive? I like history and Elizabeth Musser is doing her best to increase not only my knowledge of history but political and religious freedoms as well. The Algerian war of independence, begun in November 1954, is still raging as “Two Testaments” begins. We pick the story up in March, 1962 just a few months from when the war will officially end on July 3 1962, when France’s President Charles de Gaulle will formally renounce his nation’s sovereignty over Algeria and proclaim its independence. However there is still quite a bit of story to cover in these few remaining months. David and Gabriella are separated; she stays in Castelnau while David is in Algeria. Gabriella is defending the orphans, David is protecting the refugees. For this romance to really work these two are going to have to get back together. “Two Testaments” is filled with danger, suspense, thrills and romance. Ms. Musser knows a thing or two about France as she and her husband are missionaries there. Once again Ms. Musser has provided us a gripping adventure with plenty of action and memorable characters that you really care about. If you are looking for history you will find it here. If you are looking for a really good romance you will find it here. I liked this book and am really looking forward to where Ms. Musser will take us in the third and final book in this series. Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book for free from Wynn-Wynn Media for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
Two Testaments was an excellent read that combined the best of everything--real characters struggling with real issues that didn't have easy answers. I had only vague knowledge of the Algerian conflict, and Ms. Musser did a great job of bringing to light this terrible and bloody conflict, making the reader feel for each character, regardless of which country he belonged to. I really appreciated the clear spiritual truths communicated through the story. Definitely a must-read for lovers of well-written Christian historical fiction!
I've now read these book twice. The first time was several years ago. I was ashamed to admit that reading this was one of my first exposures to the Algerian wars. One reason I love Elizabeth musser is for her historical fiction told so delightfully through lovable and detestable characters. I loved them even more the second time I read it knowing I would be able to complete the series now that the third will finally be printed in English in September. I would definitely recommend it!! The second book is my favorite so far. . . possibly because I knew the characters and was already enthralled in the story! There is some closure to what you are left hanging with from the first book and new plot lines arise which leave you waiting for the third! Thankfully we will finally be able to finish it now that Two Destinies is coming out in September 2012!
Lagniappe! A little bit more thrown in for free - a term I learned while in school in New Orleans and that came to mind as I read these books. Taking time to read books is a luxury anymore - and when I do, I want the time to be well spent. The first two books of the Secrets of the Cross trilogy by Elizabeth Musser that I read over the past few days was definitely time I treasured. The stories unfolded with romance, adventure, intrigue, joys and sorrows, and enough twists and turns in the plot line to keep me grabbing the books for a few more vignettes whenever I had a few minutes to spare. The stories taught me history - enveloped me in a war in my lifetime that I only vaguely know even took place - and included art, poetry, literature, travel, insight into other cultures, philosophy, faith ... and yet these were intertwined in the lives of characters that seem like old friends now and that I hope will walk with me for days to come as I learned much from them. I found the links between World War II and the Algerian War fascinating - It was amazing to me to realize people lived through both of these in France. I've always thought of World War II as almost ancient history even though my dad was in France, Germany and Japan during the war. It all just seems so far removed from my life of ease in the U.S., never worrying about a knock on the door in the middle of the night, and yet as I read of the horrors of the wars, it reminded me of the news reports I hear almost daily from the Middle East and Africa. I'm eagerly awaiting the third book to be released in September as it will deal even more with the Muslim-Christian interaction that is becoming more and more at the center of so many conflicts. So if you want a little more from a book, one that will engage you both intellectually, emotionally and deep in your soul, give The Two Crosses and The Two Testaments a try. P.S. Don't read the back cover of The Two Testaments before you read the first book - it gives away part of the story.