Musser, Elizabeth 1960-

views updated

MUSSER, Elizabeth 1960-


Born February 4, 1960, in Atlanta, GA; daughter of Jere Wickliffe Goldsmith IV (a stock broker) and Barbara Butler Goldsmith (a horseback riding instructor); married name Paul Alan Musser (a missionary and pastor), 1985; children: Andrew, Christopher. Ethnicity: "Caucasian." Education: Vanderbilt University. B.A. (magna cum laude). Religion: Evangelical Protestant. Hobbies and other interests: "Fitness walking, scrapbooking, reading, playing the flute."


Home—19 route de Mont Thou, 69270 St. Romain au Mont d'Or, France. Office—c/o Author Mail, Bethany House Publishers, 11400 Hampshire Ave. South, Minneapolis, MN 55438. E-mail—[email protected].


Author and missionary.


Phi Beta Kappa.


Best Novel about Atlanta, Atlanta Magazine, 2001, for The Swan House.


Two Crosses: A Novel, maps by Andrea Boven, Victor Books (Wheaton, IL), c. 1996.

Two Testaments: A Novel (sequel to Two Crosses), Chariot Victor Publishing (Colorado Springs, CO), c. 1997.

The Swan House: A Novel, Bethany House (Minneapolis, MN), 2001.

Also author of Two Destinies, the third novel in her trilogy (set during the Algerian war of independence, follows Two Testaments).


The Swan House: A Novel was adapted for audio cassette, NorthStar Audio Books.


A novel, tentatively titled The Dwelling Place, to be published in 2004.


Elizabeth Musser has written several novels that share an underlying Christian theme. The trilogy of Two Crosses, Two Testaments, and Two Destinies is set in Algeria and France. Two Crosses and Two Testaments take place during the end of the Algerian war for independence from France (1961-62), and follow the experiences of an American exchange student. Two Destinies jumps forward thirty years and deals with the civil war in Algeria and the plight of the homeless in France. The Swan House is set during the early 1960s in Musser's hometown of Atlanta. In this story, a young girl forms a better understanding of herself, her faith, and the events around her after the tragic death of her mother. This more widely-reviewed novel earned Musser compliments for her moving story, appealing protagonist, and depiction of the civil rights movement. The author is a missionary and is based with her family in France.

Musser's first novel is Two Crosses, in which American exchange student Gabriella Madison is studying at a Franco-American school in Castelnau, France, near the end of Algeria's war for independence from French colonialism. She inadvertently finds herself involved in the war on the other side of the sea. She becomes friends with Ophelie Duchemin, a six-year-old girl who comes to the school which also houses an orphanage after her mother is kidnapped. Like Gabriella, she wears a Huguenot cross at her neck, a coincidence that draws the girl and the young woman together. A reviewer for Library Journal, found that the story "captures the loneliness one feels in a strange land."

In Musser's next installment, Two Testaments, Gabriella is still living in France, attending the boarding school and helping orphans from Algeria find shelter in France. But the man she loves, one of her former teachers, has left for Algeria and is trapped there. At an orphanage, she meets Anne-Marie Duchemin, who has recently come from Algeria and has an illegitimate child (Ophelie) by the same man. Enemies at first, but later united by their faith in God, the women become friends. In a review for Library Journal, Melissa Hudak advised readers that the novel was "an enjoyable read," but might be difficult going for those unfamiliar with the earlier novel.

Similarly, The Swan House is a coming-of-age story that uses a historical event for its starting point. Mary Swan Middleton is a sixteen-year-old who was born into a life of privilege in Atlanta, Georgia. This charmed existence is shattered in 1962, when her mother is killed in a plane crash in Paris, among 100 others from Atlanta's art community. When Mary Swan falls into a deep depression, the family's African American maid Ella Mae suggests that she might find relief in helping others. Mary Swan begins working at a soup kitchen for the poor at Ella Mae's church, where she develops new ideas about religious faith and race relations. During this same period, a traditional challenge at her high school leads the girl to discover dark secrets about her mother, while she also finds a new joy and connection with her mother through painting.

Mary Swan's story interested reviewers, who especially liked Musser's writing style and use of historical detail. In a review for Booklist, John Mort said that the novel showed "good intentions" but that it was hampered by "its do-gooding tone." BookBrowser's Maureen O'Connor was impressed by a thematic richness that she felt would "appeal to so many different readers." She called it "a rich novel, full of historical fact, full of multi-dimensional characters, full of emotion." Critic Claudia Moore wrote in School Library Journal that the novel provided "an excellent look at the racial conditions of the time" and suggested that it "might be used to motivate students to volunteer." A Publishers Weekly reviewer described it as a "beautiful story," being "highly descriptive but not overdone, brimming with touches of humor, factual Atlanta settings, historical incidents, and well-developed characters."



Booklist, June 1, 2001, John Mort, review of The Swan House: A Novel, p. 1844.

Library Journal, April 1, 1996, review of Two Crosses: A Novel, p. 72; September 1, 1997, Melissa Hudak, review of Two Testaments: A Novel, p. 168.

Publishers Weekly, review of The Swan House: A Novel, p. 53.

School Library Journal, March, 2002, Claudia Moore, review of The Swan House: A Novel, p. 260.


BookBrowser, (August 28, 2001), Maureen O'Connor, review of The Swan House: A Novel.