Hannah’s Voice, Robb Grindstaff
Coming of age, 191 Pages
Evolved Publishing, 2013, 2020 (2nd ed.)
Reviewed by Gloria Johntel
Hannah’s Voice is a poignant coming of age tale about a girl who was forcibly ripped away from her home and her mother when she was a small child. The story follows her through to adulthood as she seeks answers to this tumultuous beginning and searches for her lost mother. Robb Grindstaff writes a surprisingly strong female protagonist with plenty of complexity, tenacity, and faith in God and family, without being overly political or religious, despite the religious and political roots of the story. Throughout, the author does a good job of examining different sides and all the grey areas and taking a neutral stance in between the political and religious upheaval that surrounds the protagonist for the duration of the book.
From an early point in this story, Hannah is forced to deal with death and suspicion. As a six-year-old, she has to deal with the recent death of her father, and as the beginning unfolds, she is closely related to the deaths of her classmate and her father’s best friend. She is also forced to deal with her mother’s faulty memory and aggravating repetition. The loss of these things that are dear to her and the accusations against her involving the classmate’s death play a part in her decision to stop speaking. Through the exchanges with her teacher, the principal, the school counselor, and her Sunday school instructor, Hannah begins to feel bullied and misunderstood.
The feelings of being misunderstood and unheard are powerful ones and feelings that many people can relate to. One thing about Hannah’s voluntary muteness that was bothersome throughout the book was that no one seemed to have bothered to teach her sign language, and even when she has a deaf roommate, even though the roommate can read lips and speak, no sign language is used and is hardly even mentioned.
Although Hannah takes it to a new level, the psychological impact of grief and trauma are discussed reasonably in this novel. Her silence invokes the attention of two different groups of people: the radical religious nutcases and the radical political ones. While these two communities clash heads over the reason Hannah doesn’t speak, Hannah takes solace in the comfort of her friends, and they heroically defend her right to live her life as she pleases.
Overall, Grindstaff does a fantastic job with inclusivity and the importance of family and diversity. He captures the emotional turmoil of the foster system and being bounced from one family to the next, all the while clinging to the hope that Hannah’s mother is out there somewhere, waiting for that joyous reunion.
Reviewer Gloria Johntel lives in southern Wisconsin and is an aspiring writer. She loves to read books of all kinds. She has been writing novels since high school. She enjoys talking to authors about their publishing journeys as one day she hopes to publish some of her vast collection of novels.