Recently I read a review on a work that made me think. I love it when that happens—and o f course, I had to read the book to see what (and how) it was written to evoke that emotional response in the reviewer.
Understand that those who review books read all the time. If they’ve been reviewing for any length of time, they’ve seen it all. So it isn’t that they become cynical, it’s that they become familiar. And familiarity makes snagging and holding their attention more difficult. So when a book does hold a reviewer’s attention or excite him/her, I’m automatically curious.
This was a review of a faith-based novel, and the reviewer clearly loved the story, the characters and the premise. The nugget that snagged my interest addressed an aspect of the novel that the reviewer felt was essential information to her own readers. It was about the novel’s spiritual element and the way it had been incorporated into the book. It diverged from the typical and yet the spiritual message came through clearly.
It diverged from the typical and yet the spiritual message came through clearly.
That’s the part that first snagged my attention and then my interest. Must we as writers all write spiritual elements the same way? Must we focus on that which is expected rather than what enhances the story we’re attempting to share?
These are valid questions worthy of serious consideration. And, as we step around to the other side of the table and view works through the eyes of readers (and as readers), I wondered the same thing. As a reader, do I expect every author and every book to address spiritual issues the same way? And if I don’t, should I?
It would have been easiest to just dismiss these questions. Or to tell myself that not all books appeal to all readers and that’s great because if they did, we’d only need one writer and, for that matter, one book. But that was an off-the-cuff reaction that was superficial and the possibilities nagged at me, warning me to dig deeper and think seriously on this.
Then I remembered Acts. In in Book of Acts, diverse groups of people were gathered and each individual heard what was being preached in his own language. One speaker, and yet all who heard what that one speaker said heard it in his own native tongue.
That led me to thinking about how God interacts with us. Some he whispers to while they sleep. Some he appears to in the form of a burning bush. Some he encounters on mountains. And some he knocks off their horses to get their attention. Think of Jonah. He didn’t get a whisper or a whack or a mountain. He got the belly of a whale.
Those are just a few examples of the divergent ways God communicates with us, and if He uses diverse means, we know it’s for our greater good. It’s also for our understanding. By His actions, God shows that it takes what it takes to get our attention. We’re not one-way-fits-all receivers or communicators. He gives us what we need in a way we understand.
I’m a simple woman. Big big mental pretzels make me crazy, so I break them down into parts. You can grasp just about anything if you understand the parts and then look at the bigger picture of the whole pretzel.
So back to the reviewer. She clearly knew her readers. She knew what they expected and needed from her to grasp their attention and let them know whether or not this book was right for them. That they’d find what they expected to find, or not find what they expected to find in it. She did what God does: approached those with which she wished to communicate in a way she’d get their attention and give them what she had to share.
Getting simpler still, you could hand me the best book in the world. But if it’s written in Latin, I can’t read it. So no matter how excellent the book might be, the message in it is lost.
And that’s the reason we need diverse books with diverse approaches and reviewers who assist in getting the books from authors to the readers who have ears to hear them.
I’ve long believed that writing a specific book a specific way is the writer fulfilling purpose. In this, the reviewers’ purpose grew clear. And I discovered a deeper understanding about ears and hearing, which likely was God’s point in having me notice that specific review by that specific reviewer and it snagging my attention and nudging me to dig deeper in any analysis.
By the way, for me, the book spoke in a way that reached my ears. I not only heard but listened to its message. Two very different things, hearing and listening.
So my wish for you today is that the book you’re reading speaks to you in a way that reaches your ears and you hear its message. The choice on whether or not to listen is yours alone.
Either way, I wish you many . . .
©2012, Vicki Hinze