David C. Cook
The first two books in Elizabeth Musser’s Secrets of the Cross Trilogy, Two Crosses and Two Testaments, introduce readers to a dark spot in France’s history. They do not, however, leave readers without a glimmer of hope. By combining a unique cast of characters, compelling dialogue, and an intriguing plot line, Musser teaches her audience about the struggles and uncertainties civilians of 1961 France and Algeria were dealing with in the midst of the French-Algerian war.
The Hugo mission begins in Two Crosses, where a nun, an Algerian harki, an atheist teacher, and a Protestant exchange student, unknowingly at first work together to rescue pied-noir and harki children from a revengeful man in Algeria, with the symbol of the Huguenot cross leading the way. Mother Griolet, the nun who operates a French exchange school in Castelnau as well as an orphanage, is not new to keeping information secret and housing children displaced by war. But when Gabriella Madison arrives as a student, Mother Griolet becomes unsure of what God has in store as she remembers another young woman with a painful past. As Gabriella grows closer to the young and handsome teacher David Hoffman, Mother Griolet’s suspicions of the man lead her to feel protective of Gabriella.
After David rescues a small girl named Ophélie Duchemin off the streets of Paris following a riot, Mother Griolet feels a little better about David, but Gabriella is pulled even deeper into danger as she travels to random towns with David and gets to know Ophélie because of the Huguenot cross necklace they both wear. As both David and Gabriella fight with the idea of forgiveness in regard to their pasts, Gabriella tries to hold onto Jesus’ promise that, “I am the vine; you are the branches” (John 15:5), but several “accidents” occur and lead to life-or-death situations, threatening the success of the Hugo mission and bringing about an understanding that saves more than one life.
However, as seen in Two Testaments, even with the Hugo mission being mostly successful, the cease-fire and call for independence in Algeria leave thousands of pied-noir and harki families without a place to call home. The French do not want them to steal jobs and space, and those loyal to Algeria see them as traitors and foreigners. When David decides to continue his work in Algeria in order to rescue Anne-Marie Duchemin, a past lover and Ophélie’s mother, Gabriella starts to wonder if he will realize he still loves Anne-Marie and forget about his new love for her.
After a couple of deadly weeks in Algeria, David is finally able to get Anne-Marie to a ferry that will take her to France, but when no harkis are allowed on the ferries, David once again prolongs his stay in Algeria in order to save Anne-Marie’s friend Moustafa and his family. Luckily, Anne-Marie is not alone on the long journey, for she meets an old friend who holds her father’s last testament, which could reveal that nothing is left after the war or change her and Ophélie’s lives forever. When Gabriella is left to take care of the children from the St. Joseph orphanage and protect Anne-Marie and Ophélie from an unforeseen threat, she must have faith that God will protect them and see her through all that lies ahead.
Throughout these two books, Musser’s style remains consistent, pulling readers along as she introduces them to complex, relatable characters and takes them through the beautiful streets of France and the terrifying alleys of Algeria. Through the use of strong dialogue and the characters’ inner thoughts, Musser is not only able to tell an amazing story about courage, love, and forgiveness, but she also informs readers about a piece of history they may not know or remember, showing that minorities, no matter where they are, should not be taken for granted.
I am so glad that the first two books came out together, because it would not have been fun impatiently waiting for the second book to come out months later. With that said, I most certainly recommend reading Elizabeth Musser’s Two Crosses and Two Testaments. – Nicole E. Dynes, www.ChristianBookPreviews.com
The glimmering Huguenot cross she innocently wears leads her deep into the shadows.
When Gabriella Madison arrives in France in 1961 to continue her university studies, she doesn't anticipate being drawn into the secretive world behind the Algerian war for independence from France. The further she delves into the war efforts, the more her faith is challenged.
The people who surround her bring a whirlwind of transforming forces-a wise nun involved in the smuggling, a little girl carrying secret information, and a man with unknown loyalties who captures her heart. When she discovers a long hidden secret from her past, it all leads to questions about trust, faith in action, and the power of forgiveness to move beyond the pain of the past.