If you want to know Ann Voskamp, you first have to know her land.
Specifically, the county of North Perth (pop. 12,600), 90 minutes west of Toronto, Ontario. It’s where the mother and writer will spend her whole life—because she is adamant she will die in the same place where she was born.
North Perth’s hayfields and rolling hills belong to farmers who wake at 5 a.m. to work the land that belonged to the grandfathers of their grandfathers, who emigrated from the Netherlands and Ireland and who never set their ambitions on anything more than dwelling in the place God gave them.
These people live close to the ground, like Adam (“groundling”), only they can also make a wicked Dutch butter cake.
This land is one reason—despite her appearance on the New York Times bestseller list for 60 weeks, her ability to alone raise a million dollars for refugees, and her ubiquity on Christian bookshelves and Facebook feeds—Voskamp still won’t call herself a writer.
She says that she’s a “wait-er”—“I have to wait on the Lord for words.” Even her name is plain, she says, “without even the fanciful e.”
Amid her remarkable success since her 2010 breakout, One Thousand Gifts, these farms and fields ground her.
On the release of her second major book—The Broken Way: A Daring Path into the Abundant Life (Zondervan)—Voskamp, 43, is especially mindful of the temptation to grow bigger than her roots.
An extreme introvert for whom fun means curling up and reading Jonathan Edwards, Voskamp is ambivalent about the 10-city book tour she’s about to take. In conversations with her bubbly publicist, she’s trying to secure as many days at home.
“We need to break the ladders and go lower,” Voskamp tells CT on a visit to her farmhouse this summer.
“That means destroying platforms and living hidden lives that have dirt underneath our fingernails, as opposed to everyone striving to get behind a microphone. . . . Numbers can be toxic to our souls.”
Even still, Voskamp has some pretty interesting numbers in her life: 7 children, ages 21 to 2; 600 acres, on which her husband, Darryl (“The Farmer” to her readers), grows corn and raises pigs; 1,000 gifts, which Voskamp made herself write down in a time when gratitude was elusive and which spawned her first book; 1 million–plus copies, which that book went on to sell; and 1 Tim Keller sermon, a different one of which Voskamp tries to read every night before bed.
Readers of Voskamp’s blog, A Holy Experience, will recognize many of these details, recounted in a grammatically intrepid style that has drawn fans and critics alike.
Signature Voskamp is replacing adverbs with adjectives (“he brushed my hand gentle”) and avoiding possessive pronouns (“Christ fills the thoughts”). Some find her free association style moving; others find it distracting.
Even still, says Sandra Vander Zicht, executive editor at Zondervan, the singular style is why her publishing team greenlit the Canadian homeschooler despite not having the ever-coveted “platform.”
Our story of taking The Broken Way and being broken and given: This one’s for all of us who have felt our hearts break a bit…
This one’s for the brave and the busted and the real and dreamers and the sufferers and the believers.