A chilling feminist novel set in a near-future dystopia, Anna explores the conflicts between selfhood and expectations, safety and control, and the sacrifices we make for the sake of protection.
Beaten. Branded. Defiant.
Anna is a possession. She is owned by the man named Will, shielded from the world of struggles by his care. He loves her, protects her, and then breaks her. Anna is obedient, dutiful, and compliant. Anna does not know her place in the world.
When she falls pregnant, Anna leaves her name behind, and finds the strength to run. But the past – and Will – catch up with her in an idyllic town with a dark secret, and this time, it’s not just Anna who is at risk.
Anna is an upcoming release by veteran author Sammy H.K. Smith, and, wow, honestly it left me speechless. Which is a really interesting thing to say about a book that could really encourage a lot of dialogue. Anna’s story was a brutal read at times and joyful at others, but it was always enthralling.
He had captured me, and, by the rudimentary of the Unlands, I belonged to him.
This is a really hard review to write for a couple of reasons. First, I do not want to reveal any more about the plot than the synopsis already does. I want to tell you everything about Anna, because I got utterly lost in the story and I want to talk about it. The problem with that is not only do you, the reader, deserve to experience the book for the first time on your own, but, even more importantly, this is Anna’s story tell. Not mine. I am not going to take that from her.
I had been the stupid, lazy and weak girl he caught. I never used to be weak.
The other problem I am having writing this review is that I cannot use the usual positive qualifiers I do for other books. I cannot say I “enjoyed” this book. Or that it was “entertaining” or “fun”. It is none of those things. This is not a book to be “enjoyed”. Isn’t that the point, though, or at least some of it? This is a journey that takes you out of your box, makes you uncomfortable. And writing the review should not be, and is not, any easier. I have plenty of good things to say about Anna, though. It is incredibly well-written. Smith really knows how to create with the purpose of building tension, in both the short- and long-term. And that tension stayed, even during the “good” times. I use the word “good” hesitantly, because in this post-dystopian world the author has built almost nothing is “good”. No matter the situation, there is always a cloud of suspense hovering in the air, omnipresent. That is not an easy thing to achieve, but Smith does it very well.
One need not be a chamber – to be haunted.
Though I think Anna’s story could take place at any time and place in any era, the setting adds to the drama, for sure. It is You meets The Walking Dead, but without the zombies. I mean that in the way the world-in-peril sets up its communities: some groups of people working together to accomplish the same goals, while others are full of people looking to grab as much power as they can. Power is the big, overarching theme in the book, and it permeates everything. This setup comes with its own built-in anxieties that contribute much to the story overall. Which, by the way, is what a good setting should do.
Anna is a gripping, compelling, highly emotional, and oftentimes shocking story that will force you out of your comfort zone. It is not an easy read, and that is exactly why you should pick it up. Then find someone else who has also read it and talk about it. There is much to discuss.