"Never judge a book by its cover" is an adage I have heard many times and that dawned on me as I reluctantly picked up ‘Echoes,’ the first in the ‘Echoes series.’ The Echoes Series, chronicling the life of American Muslim convert Joshua Adams, is a body of Five Islamic Fiction books all set in the USA and penned by American Muslimah, Jamilah Kolocotronis. In addition to the five Echoes titles, which are chronologically: ‘Echoes,’ ‘Rebounding,’ ‘Turbulence,’ ‘Ripples,’ and ‘Silence;’ Kolocotronis has also written two other books, of which one is a non-fiction publication of her doctoral thesis.
As a book retailer, these titles have been in my stock for a while but I had no urge to read them until a close friend woke me up from my slumber bringing to life the adage "You must read these titles," she insisted, "They are the best I have seen." Without wasting time, I began and immediately became totally engrossed. Title after title I read until I finished the five books in just about a week or so.
The journey begins in ‘Echoes’ with the story of Joshua Adams who is the main character in the series. At the age of 18, Joshua became a father and by 23 years old he had three children due to his reckless and nonchalant lifestyle. Not being able to manage a home and relationship, Joshua walked out on his wife and children. During a sojourn in Pakistan, after he embraced Islam, Joshua learns to be a better father and with this new determination, he returns home to mend his severed relationships. This fresh start is overshadowed by the echoes from his past and so his struggle continues.
The language and style of writing employed by Jamilah is lucid, and therefore it is easy to understand and follow the trajectory of the characters. I had no idea of what I was in for when I started reading these books. Totally overwhelmed by the events in these Islamic Fiction titles, my friend who was reading along with me and I thought the issues were very realistically portrayed and we were both affected by some of the events. After reading about the life of Brad Adams in ‘Turbulence,’ the 3rd book in the series, I called my three kids together and had a brief talk with them asking them to tell me some of the things I might be doing or have done which hurt them. I got honest answers and was glad I was able to iron out things with them, Alhamdulillah.
Brad Adams is Joshua’s brother and through him, we learn lessons about the importance of communication and expressing love. Brad didn’t have the opportunity to tell his mum what was on his mind for a long time. The news of a plane crash was a shock and affected him greatly, leaving him unable to seemingly see or do things right. He set out on a road trip with the intention of ending his life. This voyage leads him to discover what he really needs, and eventually changed his life forever. Brad’s trials prompted my brief talk with my children. Overall, my iman was recharged by witnessing the struggles of the Muslims in the series.
It is true that "Where there is life, there is hope." A message of hope is conveyed through the life of Kyle Adams. He is the son of Brad Adams and had a promising career until he got involved in an accident and becomes disabled. His disability certainly does not get in his way as he has a strong will to do whatever has to be done.
The issue of racism is well addressed by Kolocotronis throughout the novels. It is quite shocking to know that whilst the religion forbids racism expressly, we still find it a major issue in our communities. In ‘Rebounding,’ the 2nd book the series, Joshua’s father rejects Joshua’s wife simply because she is a person of colour. This angers Joshua and he makes it known to his father that his rejection of his wife based on her colour was unacceptable. Then who could have thought that Joshua Adams would find himself in such a situation in ‘Silence’, the final book in the series, when his own son becomes a racist? The racial issues in Echoes rebounds and creates chaos which silences all.
The comprehensiveness of these novels makes the Echoes Series deserving of being widely read by Muslims and non-Muslims alike. Really, it’s a great series for da’wah too masha Allah. I strongly recommend them to both older teenagers and adults.
If there is anything Fawziyyah enjoys doing, it’s reading. Give her any Islamic fiction and you are sure to make her day. More reviews of her favourite genre are available at her website www.muslimteenreads. com
First published in SISTERS magazine November 2012 Issue