Steel’s newest book takes us back to Europe during World Wars I and II. The book starts off a tad bit slow as we meet Beata Wittgenstein who is vacationing in Switzerland with her family. Beata’s Jewish family owns a bank in Germany. She has grown up leading a very comfortable life, however, she also knew what was expected of her – which would be to marry the man her father will pick for her when he thinks she is ready for marriage. Beata, unlike her sister, has never given much thought to this as she much prefers books to men. While in Switzerland she literally stumbles into the man who will change her life forever, Antoine de Vallerand.
Beata falls madly in love with the French Catholic Antoine and makes arrangements to meet him in Switzerland where they will marry. Not only is her father furious at her for going against his wishes, he banishes her from any further contact with the family and tells her that in their eyes, she is now dead.
Beata and Antoine’s storybook marriage will lead to the birth of two daughters, Amadea and Daphne. However, during a tragic horseback accident, Antoine is killed and Beata wallows so deep in her own grief that she almost finds it impossible to be involved in her daughter’s lives. Amadea has always adored her much younger sister Daphne and for the next few years steps in as mother for the young child.
The story quickly turns from Beata’s story to Amadeas as we watch Amadea come of age and make the decision to become a nun. During this same time period, Hitler’s hatred for Jews is affecting everyone around them and Beata soon begins to worry about the safety of her family. Even though her marriage papers show her as Catholic as well as those of her daughters, she knows that someone has to remember that she was born Jewish.
It is as Beata crosses the bank lobby one day that she is recognized by someone from her past. Once her name echoes across the lobby things begin to change. Beata and Daphne are torn from their homes and sent to a work camp. Soon Amadea gets word that it is best for her to flee the convent and try to hide from the Nazi’s who may be searching for her.
In the pages that follow, Amadea will be captured and taken to a work camp, escape, then take on a new role as she tries to help others who have escaped the cruelties of Hitler’s men. It is only when Amadea falls in love and is nearly killed that she begins to question going back to the convent. Maybe Christ had a different purpose for her in life.
Fans of Steel's lighter, contemporary stories might be disappointed with this new book. I found that it reminded me of some of her older books that I treasured so much. This is not a happy novel for the most part, but one that is filled with a lot of history. I often found myself wiping away the tears as I rapidly turned the pages. Fans of Steel's earlier books should rush right out and purchase Echoes.