Review: Home for the Holidays, discovering voice

Home for the Holidays
Home for the Holidays by Randee Dawn
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I had the pleasure of meeting the author at a local convention last year some time, and actually won this book when I attended her reading. I highly recommend that others should go out and buy it, not least to encourage the author to write lots more!

Voice is one of the tricky bits of being a writer. Editors and agents will tell you that they look for an author with a strong “voice” and new writers will scratch their heads and try to figure out what that means and where to get one.

I am not one of those who reads to experience the flowery and self-congratulating prose that is often presented as an example of a strong voice for an author. I prefer and more subtle and vigorous approach that grows, not from the author’s desire to impress an English teach who’s probably been dead for decades, but from the author’s attempt to present a clear and striking picture of the story world that is so deeply embedded in the consciousness of character that you can’t remove the narrator’s voice without the work falling to bits.

Randee Dawn is such a writer. In each of these stories, she creates such a strong sense of the character behind the narrative that the reader must pull out at the end and be startled to find that yes, the author of that nasty little Christmas fable which provides the title, and the elegant mannered “The Folly of Miss Arbuthnot” is, in fact, the same person.

Dawn has the ability to sink into each of these works through their characters and reveal them from the inside out. That sort of confidence and investment creates a voice for the author that makes me want more. The work reminds me of Peter S. Beagle, who can so easily assume the identity of an old wine-sot sailor, then slide into the mind of a teenage Chicana. How? Teach me this magic!

If the fingerprint of the author is here on the prose, it is to point the reader in a new direction. If the author’s voice is whispering, it is to lull you into the dream that is a story.

More work by Randee Dawn is sincerely to be hoped for–hers is a voice I could listen to for a very long time.

View all my reviews

About E. C. Ambrose

I spend as much time in my office as I possibly can--thinking up terrible things to do to people who don't exist.
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