Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Book Review Club - Anna Was Here

Anna was Here
Jane Kutz
middle grade

I'm stretching ye olde reviewing skills again with my first review after the summer siesta of the Book Review Club. Fortunately, Jane Kurtz makes my work so much easier. Anna was Here was a fun, entertaining, timeless story. Dare I say, it's a meat and potatoes book cloaked in chocolate pudding. They don't get any better than that!

Plot synopsis: Anna, daughter of a minister and university professor, must move to Kansas when her father accepts a temporary post as pastor to an ailing church in a small town. Catch: the small town is filled with relatives and uneasy family history.

This story is as much about mending broken ties in a community and family as it is about the change and discomfort that comes from a big move and new start. What struck me is how evenly balanced this story is. All of the parts - character, plot, setting - work in harmony. None is louder than the others. They each take center stage for appropriate but not prolonged solos.

While there is a religious element to this story, Kurtz does an excellent job of, again, balancing. Religion doesn't take over. The story doesn't become about religion, or faith, or belief, or what one person believes in lieu of another. Rather, it remains another story element, nicely blended, fulfilling the role Kurtz sets out for it, which is, interestingly, both dividing and unifying. 

All of that got me to thinking about voice. I've heard the term described as so many different things, not the least of which is the tone of a piece, or an author's style. Anna was Here made me rethink those. After all, they already have their own iconic terminology. But voice is still missing its fundamental definition (at least for me, it was). So I came up with my own: voice is the result of a writer's blend of style, tone, character, setting, plot, and the various other parts of story. In other words, voice isn't any one thing. It's what is created when all of the parts are blended and create something greater than the sum of those parts = voice.

I'm pretty sure I haven't reinvented the definitional wheel on voice, but it finally makes sense to me. Thanks Jane Kurtz!

Other fall delights, are a finger's stretch away at Barrie Summy's blog. Happy reading!


Barrie said...

I love your definition of voice! And I love the sound of a meat-and-potatoes book cloaked in chocolate pudding. Hey, guess what's up next on my TBR pile? We Were Liars (based on your review below). Thanks for joining in, Stacy! p.s. How did we both end up with high schoolers? Ack!

Sarah Laurence said...

Terrific definition of voice! It is hard to define.

Linda McLaughlin said...

I love your definition of voice, too. It's so hard to pin down, but I think you're right about it being a result of the blend of story elements and author's style.

Anna Was Here sounds like a worthwhile read. Glad you enjoyed it.

Lucy said...

Sounds like a good book to read for a lot of reasons and I like your take on the writing lessons it gives as well. Thanks for the review.