If, for whatever reasons you still haven’t read my book, I suggest you read this incredible review by Kristi Anderson. It may inspire you to read it. Thanks, as always, to Kristi.
Though the book title and cover suggest an epic other-world fantasy, the storyline of this novel by first-time author Dori Hartley is rooted in something far more sinister – the horrors too often inflicted by humans on each other. Who needs vampires and demons when cheating husbands, abusive mothers, and murdering sons are all too happy to step out of the understudy’s shadow?
And so the story goes in Hartley’s gripping page-turner, “Angels and Echoes,” a character study in how far one can be stretched in the directions of selfless love and pure evil before the deeds themselves catapult us into either angelic or demonic status.
From the first page, the reader is immediately thrust into the parallel storylines of New Yorker Olivia Lang and Kentucky-based Evan McQuayle, two protagonists each fighting their own demons that unfortunately know no cultural or geographic boundaries – breast cancer and child abuse.
I offer no spoilers on how their two very different worlds collide, but when they do, it is with a force so powerful that the reader truly won’t see it coming. And once you see it, you won’t want to look away even for a moment, no matter how difficult some passages are to read. It is as if the author grabs you by the nape of the neck and forces you to stare into the sun, never allowing you to break your gaze. Hartley is not afraid to display in grotesque, almost eye-blinding, color what many of us would prefer remain greyed out in the darkness.
But here’s the thing – and this is a spoiler I don’t mind sharing – goodness always wins in the end. It may not seemingly be in equal proportion to the horrors experienced, and it may not wrap up in complete storybook fashion, but this reader does believe that good always prevails. Through each of their own tragedies, Olivia and Evan offer each other – and their growing and strangely intertwining tribe of family and friends – unconditional love and redeeming hope in proportions that are truly life-saving. And let me be clear: this is not the blind, sugar-coated love of fairytales. This love is real, raw, flawed, gritty, sweaty. In a word, human.
Truthfully? I thank the author for displaying the violence and vulgarity in such epic, heart-breaking fashion, because it only heightens my awe of the perfect power of good to conquer evil in our lives – if we allow it to. And that is the key: whatever dungeon of misery we are plummeted into, whatever grave of despair we’ve dug for ourselves, most of us are not so far down that we can’t help another up — especially those who have absolutely no capacity for helping themselves. The power of good, though immense, needs our seemingly puny human actions and humble missteps to animate and propel it into action. As the pace picks up – and as this book so beautifully exemplifies – a force that great can only multiply and grow to outshine any shadow.
With such a richly painted canvas to feast our eyes upon, it’s hard to believe that this is the author’s first novel. It reads with the pace, thrill and intrigue reminiscent of Stephen King or Dan Brown. Lofty comparisons, but well earned. In fact, this reader put the book down only once, and I will tell you that the ending left me begging for more.
With all of its twists and turns, this universal story of good and evil – rendered anew in this author’s deft hands – transforms rejection into redemption; betrayal into loyalty; manipulation into pure intention and grace. And, abuse into love.
Redemption. Loyalty. Pure intention. Grace. Love.
What a beautiful ending, yet these possibilities are always with us from the beginning.
In the end, Dori Hartley is a first-rate story teller, dare I say a literary angel, who delivers an important message about rejection and redemption. And I, for one, hope that her compelling plots and unforgettable characters continue to echo and resonate with all of us for many more books to come.