19 December 2007
Walt Disney takes on Richard Bach with a hint of Dickens
Mister God, This is Anna
Ballantine Books, 1985
The book recounts the friendship formed between the author and narrator Fynn (who is in his late teens or early 20s in the narrative) and a foundling named Anna in London's East End, in the 1930s. Anna, reminiscent of a character from Dickens, is a little girl who lives on the streets until she is taken in by the narrator. She has a unique perspective on life, a mystical spirituality, and a boundless curiosity that she shares with the author and the reader on every page. She occasionally (at least once per chapter) lets loose with a metaphor or pronouncement that is as deep as they come, but it is hard to imagine a real five-year old spouting these profundities with such regularity. Was she a real kid or just a figment of the author's imagination? I have no idea, but I do know that her death in the final chapter (this isn't a spoiler---Fynn tells us about her death in the first few pages) felt real enough.
I loved the characters of Fynn and Anna, yet I have mixed feelings about the book itself. It was given to me as a gift by a good friend, who in turn had it recommended to him. Both recommendations came with the suggestion that the book had substantially shifted their perspectives. Yet in reading the book, I could never shake my suspicion that the author was just using sentimental tricks to make the book seem profounder than it really was. (It felt like the same kind of emotional manipulation that I associate with the movie Forrest Gump.) Put it this way: if the wise-sounding comments had come from an adult, rather than from a small homeless child, would they still have seemed as deep?
Luckily, the book is an easy read and is readily available in almost every thrift store in the country, so you can read it for yourself and see what you think.
(This review was originally written on July 3, 2006.)