Saturday, February 9, 2013

ALL FOR A SONG by Allison Pittman

Nineteen-year-old Dorothy Lynn Dunbar is a preacher’s daughter who lives in a small country town with her mother. Her father is deceased and she’s recently become engaged to the new preacher, Brent Logan. She is a talented singer/songwriter/guitar player, but her musical gift is undiscovered, I suspect primarily because her mother thinks her guitar is unladylike.

She loves Brent, but secretly wonders what the rest of the world is like and whether she’ll get the opportunity to find out. That chance comes when, on a visit to her sister to have her wedding dress made, she happens on a revival, given by Aimee Semple McPherson. Roland, Ms. McPherson’s assistant hears her play and sing and convinces her to sing at the revival. As he knew they would, the crowd is captivated by her innocence and her music, glorifying God. He convinces Aimee to take Dorothy with them and convinces Dorothy to go with them, promising to help her find her brother, who was to have come home from the war, but never showed up. He agrees and she goes with them, promising Brent that she’ll be back in time for their wedding.

During this trip, Dorothy experiences things she’d never have been able to in Heron’s Nest. I guess it can be said that she sowed her wild oats. But through it all, she maintained her faith.

Interwoven with the chapters telling the story of her youth, is the story of her old age. Through that, we learn what happened after she went back home.

The characterization in the book is exceptionally well done. Kudos to Ms. Pittman for creating characters that invoke feelings in the reader.

I didn’t like Aimee’s character at all. I have never heard of her and don’t know anything about her, but the little bit of her that I saw here was reminiscent of the preachers who have people in wheelchairs up front and the people jump up shouting, proclaiming to be healed and the audience then throws money at the preacher to further their good works. She came across to me as needing to be the one in the spotlight. She was reluctant to take Dorothy along, not wanting to accept that Dorothy may have been the reason that they took in more money when she first performed. Then she fired Roland. I can’t figure out if she was mad that he brought Dorothy along or that he’d allowed Dorothy to stay in one of the hotel rooms that was reserved for her and her people.

I didn’t like Roland at first, but he kind of grew on me. I didn't necessarily like him, but I don't hate him either. I knew from the start, though, that he liked Dorothy and wanted more than a protégé or mentor/mentee type of relationship. He wanted to exploit her talents, but he genuinely cared about her. Just not enough to marry her.

I loved Brent’s character, even though we don’t see all that much of him. Their romance wasn’t what I expected. I loved that they expressed their affection for each other. In most books like this, the intendeds sit on the porch swing every night and don’t even so much as hold hands. Though it hurt him, he gave her the space she needed to grow and waited for her to come back to him.

I felt sorry for Darlene. She did move away from the small town and to the big city, but she still had the country girl mentality for the most part. She, like the rest of Dorothy’s friends/family, had cast 
Dorothy as the quiet little country girl preacher's daughter who simply does what she’s told to.

I’m not sure what I think about Donnie. I understand that he was changed by the war and came back a different person and that he couldn’t come back to the same old life, but I don’t understand wanting to completely distance himself from his family.

I loved Charlotte. This is her first time seeing her great-great aunt (it may be great-great-great aunt, I lost track of greats). Having had no relationship whatsoever with Dorothy, she’s the one who appreciated getting to meet her the most. The several relatives who showed with a birthday cake and snacks saw their visit as a chore (except for one). Charlotte, on the other hand, chose to find Dorothy because she wanted to. She’d taken the time to track her down and she knew all about her.

I enjoyed this book much more than I thought I would. And I’ll definitely read it again. I rate it 5 stars.

Author Q & A

1. What was your inspiration for this book, All for a Song?
There were so many different pieces that came together with this book; it’s hard to name just one. First, I was introduced to, and then became fascinated with Aimee Semple McPherson, and while I wasn’t ready to take on her story, I knew I wanted to create my own characters to somehow come into her sphere. She was a woman who embraced both ministry and fame, and I wanted to create a character who had that same opportunity. With that, I am so inspired by the decade of the 1920’s—such sweeping social changes, shifts in moral centering, an explosion of choices and opportunities for women. It was a time to test one’s faith—to go against the new norms in pursuit of righteousness. Such a challenge! 

2. Tell me about your main character Dorothy Lynn. Was her character based upon anyone in particular?
The young Dorothy Lynn, no, not really—not beyond any other singer/songwriter out there. She’s a young woman with a message and a voice, so maybe she’s a mash-up of every musician I know. The older Dorothy Lynn, Miss Lynnie, is somewhat based on the mother of a friend of mine. His mother went to be with the Lord while I was in the final stages of writing this novel, and at her funeral, I learned that she had a stroke years before her passing, during which she had a glimpse of Heaven, and had spent her intervening years longing to return. I remember going home from that celebration of her life and re-writing just about every Breath of Angels scene, incorporating that into Dorothy Lynn’s story. It was exactly what the story needed, and brought about a depth I couldn’t have imagined in the initial draft. 

3. What lessons or truths will your readers find in the pages of this novel? 
I hope that they learn that it’s good to take a chance, to take hold of opportunities that come your way, even if it doesn’t always make sense to do so. Yes, there are times that require periods of prayer and reflection and guidance-seeking, but then there are times when you have to hop on the next train and trust that God has the details well in hand. Along with that, I’d want them to know that while there is breath, there is opportunity for grace and forgiveness, but we might need to humble ourselves. There’s a theme of a longing for home, no matter how enticing the alternative seems.

4. Although this novel is set in the 1920s, how does Dorothy Lynn’s story still resonate today? 
The world today wants nothing more than to entice young women to exploit themselves in some way, and the enemy wants nothing more than to make us think that we are beyond redemption. We all make stupid, thoughtless, reckless decisions; we all get ourselves into such unbelievably embarrassing messes; we all disappoint our loved ones. The world tells you to move on; God tells you to go back. 

5. As a writer, what did you particularly enjoy about crafting this story? 
Oh, my goodness. As a historical writer, I loved the time period—that sort of new, innocent fumbling with innovations of the time. One of my favorite scenes was when the 107-year-old Dorothy Lynn experiences her first iPad. (By the way, I had to make her that old in order to make all the history “fit.” I spent every day for a month watching the Willard Scott segment on the Today show making sure that her age would be believable. Wouldn’t you know? Every week there’s somebody that tops the 105th birthday!) 

6. What is your hope for this story? How would you like it to impact readers? 
I would love it if this book would prompt a reader to reach out to somebody they feel they have lost. Reconciliation is hard—whether you’re the perpetrator or the victim of whatever “wrong” that happened. But life is short, even if you’re going to get more than a century of living, at some time that final day will come. Close those gaps in your life. Offer and ask for forgiveness. Leave a legacy of grace. 

7. How has this novel helped you to grow as a storyteller? 
My tendency (a very purposeful one) is to leave my stories with a bit of an “unfinished” edge. I like my characters to leave the page on the cusp of fulfillment, so that my readers can have the pleasure of imagining those final, satisfying moments. A good friend (and, coincidentally a fan) of mine said, “I love your books. I hate your endings. I’m just going to have to accept that this is what an Allison Pittman story does.” So—how fun was this to write the most definitive ending, ever! To open a story on the last day of a character’s life—so totally new for me. 

8. What is the best advice or encouragement that you have received? 
It goes back to a conversation I had with James Scott Bell back when I’d written approximately 7 chapters of what would become my first novel, Ten Thousand Charms. The whole conversation is chronicled in Chapter 16 of his fabulous book The Art of War for Writers. (I’m the “young woman” – which I was, at the time, sort of…) Anyway, I was frustrated and discouraged, and he explained to me that this writing thing was like a pyramid. At its base, you have everybody who ever thinks they maybe might want to try to start writing a book someday. At the top is Max Lucado. The rest of us are somewhere in-between. “Your job…is to keep moving up the pyramid. Each level presents its own challenges, so concentrate on the ones right in front of you.” I love and welcome every new challenge.

About the Author 

Award-winning author Allison Pittman left a seventeen-year teaching career in 2005 to follow the Lord’s calling into the world of Christian fiction, and God continues to bless her step of faith. Her novels For Time and Eternity and Forsaking All Others were both finalists for the Christy Award for excellence in Christian fiction, and her novel Stealing Home won the American Christian Fiction Writers’ Carol Award. She heads up a successful, thriving writers group in San Antonio, Texas, where she lives with her husband, Mike, their three sons, and the canine star of the family—Stella. 

Visit Allison at her website, .

Topics Allison can speak on:
  • Her research for this novel, set in the iconic Roaring Twenties.
  • Her inspiration for her character Dorothy Lynn and the All for a Song story.
  • The challenge of remaining true to ourselves in a world full of temptation—Remaining in the world, but not of it.
  • Finding and fulfilling your life’s purpose.

To schedule an interview with Allison Pittman, please contact: Katie Dodillet,, 630.784.5275

*** Disclosure: I received an ARC from the publisher. No compensation or other consideration was received in exchange for this review.

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