the space between words

The Space Between Words by Michele Phoenix

Synopsis

“There were seconds, when I woke, when the world felt unshrouded. Then memory returned.”

When Jessica regains consciousness in a French hospital on the day after the Paris attacks, all she can think of is fleeing the site of the horror she survived. But Patrick, the steadfast friend who hasn’t left her side, urges her to reconsider her decision. Worn down by his insistence, she reluctantly agrees to follow through with the trip they’d planned before the tragedy.

“The pages found you,” Patrick whispered.

“Now you need to figure out what they’re trying to say.”

During a stop at a country flea market, Jessica finds a faded document concealed in an antique. As new friends help her to translate the archaic French, they uncover the story of Adeline Baillard, a young woman who lived centuries before—her faith condemned, her life endangered, her community decimated by the Huguenot persecution.

“I write for our descendants, for those who will not understand the cost of our survival.”

Determined to learn the Baillard family’s fate, Jessica retraces their flight from France to England, spurred on by a need she doesn’t understand.

Could this stranger who lived three hundred years before hold the key to Jessica’s survival?

Review

Thanks to Netgalley for providing me an ARC of The Space Between Words by Michele Phoenix for review.

(the review contains some “spoilers”, but they were VERY predictable plot points so I am not going to be hiding that part of the review.)

I actually just started reading The Space Between Words without having read too much into the synopsis (usually I think about it a lot more before I decide to pick up a book). It’s classified as general fiction on netgalley but I would probably also classify it as historical and Christian fiction.

The main storyline takes place in modern day France, but as Jessica finds a mysterious sewing box with a false bottom on it (with pages of a journal and pages from the bible inside), the story takes us back to the 17th century (the revocation of the Edict of Nantes leading to the persecution of Huguenots in France) and the story of Adeline, whose family had to flee France due to religious persecution.

The general vibe of this book reminded me of Sarah’s Key–and the format is more or less similar. The difference is in the protagonists’ stories and of course, the time period in history they decided to look into. If you’re a fan of those types of stories, then I highly recommend this book to you.

Jessica is a likable character, though I think there were parts of the book where I felt was less convincing to me as a reader. Jessica and Grant’s romantic subplot, for example, is a big one. It almost felt like the author just couldn’t resist throwing in a romantic relationship, and frankly the relationship itself felt a little odd and out of place. Not in the sense that it “came out of nowhere,” (it was predictable where the author was going with this) but it felt as if Mona existed as a character to only propel Jessica and Grant together (had Mona never had that conversation with Jessica about Jessica’s relationship with Grant, Jessica might have never thought about it), and it felt as if the author only had the two of them end up together so that their quest to figure out what became of Adeline’s family would end more “satisfactorily” for the readers (had Grant and Jessica not gotten together by the end of the book, they would have just said goodbye). Another thing I am not quite convinced about was how Jessica just ignored her parents after meeting Grant and Mona. Jessica got shot at a terrible terrorist attack, and brushed off her parents’ phone calls, etc. I do realize Jessica is in her 30s, but I’m just not quite convinced that someone would just ditch everything for a couple weeks/months, including her job (actually thinking back, I’m not super sure what Jessica does for a living) and her life back in another country for a wild goose chase, especially after a traumatic incident. She didn’t do anything to reassure her parents that she was still ok (she called them once after she was discharged from the hospital), and her parents never followed up either. It was a little one-dimensional and only done for the purpose of the story, I feel.

Nonetheless, The Space Between Words was a story that was written well and had a solid plot. It wasn’t perfect, but I did enjoy it. The characters were likable and the plotline gave the readers something to be intrigued about. The historical background was intriguing too, though I would say that it makes up significantly less of the plot than normal historical fictions (or even Sarah’s Key, since the two books are verysimilar in terms of style). It felt like something to bring the characters together and to help Jessica heal, but it wasn’t necessarily at the forefront of the plotline.

4.5 stars for this book.

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