Thursday 27 October 2022

Voice in the Storm - Eric Thomas Ruthford - Camp St Innocent Book 1

Voice in the Storm: 
A Novel in Parts
Camp St Innocent Book 1
ISBN 9798826332511

As a debut novel this was a very impressive and ambitious offering. My son and I used adaptive technology and listened to this book. It is a story that enthralled both of us. He joined me part way through and is going back and working his way through the book a second time. The subtitle of the book is “A novel in parts” and it could almost be marketed as omnibus edition of 5 separate stories. Many authors who write for middle grade readers or early teens and tweens would likely have published this as five separate stories in the same series. I think of Dan Gutman, Tony Abbot, Andrew Clements, and others that write for this target audience. The big difference between their works and this collection is the strong faith element and that the Orthodox Faith is central to most characters and all the stories in this collection. Even in the table of contents each of the 5 parts starts with a chapter 1, and the stories have between 5 and 14 chapters. 

The description of this volume is:

“Helene is ready for a perfect summer with her friends at church camp when a nearby forest fire threatens to force an evacuation. Camp is her only time to see her friends from before her family’s move in the middle of seventh grade, friends she knew before the bullies and the cliques of her new school made her go from shy to terrified. Helene puts her science skills to work to think of a way to escape the smoke. With the help of a meteorologist who’s come to study the fire, she creates a plan, but first she must find her voice to convince the camp director that it could work.

From new author Eric Thomas Ruthford, Voice in the Storm is a novel in parts that tells the story of four Orthodox Christian campers helping their friends, growing in faith, making ketchup bottles explode, and avoiding the director’s quirky punishments for breaking the camp’s no-kissing rule.”

The 5 stories or parts in it are:

As Smoke Vanishes
Grape Juice On The Ceiling
Theological Impressions
Momzilla And The Return Of The Robo-Baby
Voice In The Storm

There is some pretty heavy material in this volume. I love the Robo Baby. And a young girl trying to help her dad not OD really hit close to home. Each of the 5 parts is well written. Once I started, I had a hard time putting the book down. I love the way that Ruthford infuses the stories with the Orthodox faith. My son had a lot of questions about Orthodox vs Catholic after we read a few of the parts together. 

The writing flows in an easy and engaging manner. The stories remind me of Madeleine L’Engle’s Chronos or real time series and books. The characters could be people you know in your church or neighbourhood. The events are plausible. And the interactions between the tweens and teens is like a peek into their lives and thought processes. One sample of the wit in the novel is

“A group of ten high school and middle school girls put together a performance about St. George and the Dragon. The skit opened with Laura declaring, “Meddle not in the affairs of dragons, for you are crunchy and taste good with ketchup.” She then explained to the audience that after taking up residence next to the lake, she told the people in the summer camp next to the lake they had to feed her one child per day or she would destroy the whole camp. “Campers are so tasty,” she finished.”

This is an excellent collection of stories. I would have no concern recommending it to my Catholic readers, or to be honest for any Middle grade or teen reads. It was an excellent read and I look forward to the next volume in the series. A great read filled with faith, family, and friendships, perfect for young readers and their families. 

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2022 Catholic Reading Plan! This book is Orthodox Christian but adding it to my Catholic reading list.

Books by Eric Thomas Ruthford:
Heaven Help the Single Christian

Camp St. Innocent Series:
Tea With the Dead on Sunday: How I Lost My Voice in Ukraine

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