"Anna" by Laura Guthrie is an uplifting read of one young girl’s fight for survival in an adult world where it seems she has become a pawn in a confusing game of chess. Anna has Asperger’s syndrome, but she works hard to see the positives in life and uses coping strategies to deal with the difficulties she faces in her daily life. Home-schooled by her father, Anna, at 13, has never known her mother and the little she does know of her is what she has learned from him. The impression she gets is not a good one. So when her father dies in a fire that nearly takes them both, Anna finds herself heading to a new life in Scotland to live with a mother she has no memory of ever having met and a one-sided view of gleaned only from her father.
Anna has to use all the strategies in her armoury even to get herself Scotland. She travels alone, to somewhere she has only a vague recollection of visiting once for a holiday. She and her father always played a ‘Happy Game’ in which they sought to find the positives in each and every situation they encountered. Anna finds herself looking for positives in her change in circumstances as the train takes her further away from the home she knows in London to a new beginning in central Scotland, but things don’t get off to the best start when her mother is not at the station to greet her when she arrives.
Anna seeks to build a relationship with her distant and anxious mother. She seeks out other people and make friends with those around her who might shed light on her mother’s past and help Anna to make a connection with her. Molly, the hired help, takes Anna under her wing and Jamie, a local boy she meets at the park, becomes her friend. The strange Skeleton Man, who at first threatens to 'skin her alive' when she enters his garden, becomes, in time, one of her closest allies.
Anna is beautifully written and is delivered at a pace that keeps the reader engrossed as the story unfolds. Written in the first person, the daily challenges that Anna faces are explained in her own thoughts and words. We get to experience life through her eyes as she engages coping strategies to meet challenges and overcome difficulties in almost every aspect of her daily life. The reader ends up willing Anna on and sharing in her successes, because she gets inside your head and you in hers. “Anna”, the novel, is thought provoking. It asks the reader to accept as normal what, to the majority, is an alien view of life. Most of us don’t see the world in the same minute detail as Anna, nor find ourselves hung up on the simplest things, but we can all learn from her approach to life. To this reader, the most powerful messages to come from “Anna” are to think before you speak and to always be kind. It is poignant, in these strange times we all now find ourselves in, that Anna’s view of life is one that we are all now being asked to embrace, as we deal with the difficulties imposed upon us in a time of lockdown and slow progress towards a 'new normal' way of living.