Rediscovering Anne – An Interview with Author Rachel Dodge

Of the multitude of novels I devoured as an adolescent, no single book left more of an impression on me than L. M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables. Anne’s sense of romance, her overactive imagination and her search for acceptance seemed to mirror my own awkward self. The one thing I had that Anne did not was a family that loved me exactly as I was. With her new Anne of Green Gables Devotional, author Rachel Dodge explores our innate desire for love and belonging – a desire that is only fulfilled by our Heavenly Father.

Rachel Dodge, author of The Anne of Green Gables Devotional and Praying with Jane.

In celebration of the release of the beautiful “Chapter-by-Chapter Companion for Kindred Spirits,” Rachel kindly shares a bit more about the Anne of Green Gables Devotional and just how special it is to lift Biblical truths off the pages of the classic novel and bring them to her readers.

ATG: Your first traditional work to be published was Praying with Jane, a devotional based on the prayers of Jane Austen. What initially inspired you to write this Anne of Green Gables Devotional?

Rachel: I grew up reading Anne of Green Gables and watching the movies, so anything to do with Anne has always been of interest to me. After writing Praying with Jane, I knew that if I ever had the chance to write one more devotional book, it would be on Anne’s story of adoption and belonging. The spiritual themes in the book are beautiful and touching; there is so much we can learn from her story.

ATG: Your mother read aloud to you as a child. Was Anne of Green Gables one of those read-alouds? What is your earliest recollection of discovering the Anne series?

Rachel: She read SO many books to us, but I read Anne of Green Gables when I was old enough to read it for myself. My parents showed me the 1985 movie with Megan Follows when I was pretty young, and I of course fell in love immediately with Anne, Matthew, Marilla, Diana, Gilbert, and everyone in Avonlea. When I was in elementary school, my mom and I read the whole series at the same time one summer. She was always a book or two ahead of me and could read so much faster than I could, but I remember we loved talking about the books and devouring them one after another!

ATG: And all these years later, it is still a favorite. What about the book makes it an ideal companion for a devotional?

The Anne of Green Gables Devotional features 40 chapter-by-chapter entries, discussion questions, and “The World According to Anne Shirley” glossary.

Rachel: Anne of Green Gables is filled with rich spiritual themes and truths. Anne’s story provides a gentle allegory for God’s redemptive, adoptive plans for each of us. Not only is she adopted, as we are adopted into God’s family when we place our trust in Jesus as our Savior, but she grows and flourishes in a loving family, just as we do as part of the Body of Christ. Anne’s own journey of faith is central to the plot as she learns to pray, attends church, goes to prayer meetings, sings in the choir, contemplates morality and theology, and practices curbing her temper.

ATG: Anne’s spiritual journey seems to mimic our own at times, doesn’t it? How much of yourself – and what aspects of yourself – do you see in Anne?

Rachel: I’ve always related to Anne in many ways. I’m talkative, imaginative, emotional, expressive, passionate, and driven. I aim for perfection (or close to it) and I am always trying to better myself. I know what it’s like to get into scrapes like Anne! I’m embarrassed to say I’m also capable of holding a little grudge now and again (though I don’t think I’ve ever been mad at someone for as long as Anne was mad at Gilbert). Like Anne, I thrive best when I feel loved and supported.

ATG: The love and support our Heavenly Father gives is the foundation – the thread of Truth – woven throughout each of the 40 devotional entries in the book. Which devo entry from the book is your favorite?

Rachel: There are so many that I absolutely love. God spoke so tenderly to me as I prayed over and wrote each chapter. But I do adore Chapter 3, when Matthew Cuthbert fights to keep Anne. I titled that entry “Defender of the Weak.” I can’t read it without tearing up. Here’s an excerpt:

After [Anne] cried herself to sleep—feeling friendless and alone—a soft-hearted, kindly old bachelor spoke up and said he wanted her. While Anne slept, Marilla made plans to take Anne back, but Matthew quietly put his foot down. Marilla said no, but Matthew stubbornly said yes. Marilla asked, “What good would she be to us?” And Matthew answered, “We might be some good to her.”

Matthew’s quiet intervention is a picture of God’s work in our lives, for our salvation and for our good. God is a “father to the fatherless” who “sets the lonely in families” (Psalm 68 NIV). Before we knew Him, He knew us. When we were powerless to save ourselves, He intervened. While we were “still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8 NIV).

ATG: I had not thought of the way Matthew fights for Anne in his own quiet way as a representation of how God fights for us. The book is beautiful, both in its words and the accompanying illustrations. What are you most excited about with its release?

Rachel: I was so excited to finally introduce this devotional to Anne fans around the world. I really think this is a devotional that will touch the hearts of many people who need to be reminded of just how much God loves them. It reminds Christians to live as beloved adopted sons and daughters, not as orphans.

ATG: I can imagine delving so deeply into a classic like this had its moments of difficulty. What did you find most challenging with this writing project?

Rachel: I would say the timing of it all was the hardest part. I was writing this on a pretty tight timeline while teaching my college writing courses and still doing all of the things I do as a mom and wife. My family is so supportive and helpful when I am on deadline! My husband picks up so much slack, helps me with fact checking and tech support, and cheers me on and prays for me when I feel like giving up.

ATG: Through those challenges, as you put each chapter together, how did you see God working? Did He reveal Himself to you in any unexpected ways?

Rachel: Writing this devotional was very personal for me. At the time, I was grieving the loss of a dear friend who was like a second dad to me growing up. He was a “Matthew Cuthbert” influence in my life and had always been there for me. As I wrote, the Lord ministered to my heart. I felt as though He was healing my broken heart as I wrote. I looked forward to sitting down to write each day because I knew the Lord would meet me in a special way. So many of the entries are about Matthew, about God’s love for us as our Heavenly Father, and about our adoption into God’s family through faith in Christ. Writing this book was a balm for my soul.

ATG: We can all use a little “balm for our souls” right now, I think. The devotional is subtitled “A Chapter-by-Chapter Companion for Kindred Spirits.” How would you define a kindred spirit – and are they as scarce as Anne used to think they were?

Rachel: To me, a kindred spirit is a like-minded person who you can connect with on a deeper level. Like Anne, I don’t think they are as scarce as I used to think. I find them all the time now! I used to think a kindred spirit was someone who was just like me. But now I realize that isn’t true at all. Two people can have totally different personalities and backgrounds and still be like-hearted and of the same mind. I love that, and I love meeting new kindred spirits!

ATG: Agreed! I used to think that I could only have one true Kindred Spirit, but I’ve learned otherwise. How has creating this devotional changed your understanding and perspectives on Anne and her creator, L. M. Montgomery?

Rachel: I really related to Anne as a young girl in every way imaginable. Now that I’m an adult, I see Anne and her experiences in new ways. I love her faith journey, so writing this devotional gave me an even deeper appreciation of all the religious themes and moments through the book. Having read a lot about Montgomery, I believe she wrote these beautiful books as an escape from the very difficult valleys she experienced in her personal life. She was sensitive and imaginative and extremely bright, just like her heroines, and she created books that allow her readers to follow her into that wonderful world. Her books are a gift to us all; they are comforting and beautiful in the midst of a broken world.

Just as L. M. Montgomery’s books are gifts to us all, Rachel’s devotional is also a source comfort “in the midst of our broken world.” As readers journey with Anne on her path to faith, friendship, and family, they also discover the deeper truths of unconditional love and the unparalleled joy of being adopted into the Father’s family. The devotional is a beautiful gift to share with the kindred spirits in your life and a sweet way to rediscover a classic.

To learn more about Rachel Dodge and her passion for the classics, visit her website https://www.racheldodge.com/. Rachel is also active on Facebook under @racheldodgebooks and on Instagram under @kindredspiritbooks.

The Anne of Green Gables Devotional is currently available through major retailers, including christianbook.com, barnesandnoble.com, and amazon.com.

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