Sunstone Press, pb, 134 p.
Ana Howland is at a crisis point. As a constrained yet passionate woman, she finds few outlets for her desires in her role as mother and wife. She is subsumed by a controlling husband, but is craving her own fulfillment.This was a beautifully written story of a woman struggling to lead a life of her own choosing, trapped in a marriage by her overbearing, controlling husband but afraid to leave for the sake of their daughter. The story follows Ana as she comes to some realisations about herself and the people around her, and as she essentially learns how to become her own person. The author said in her guest post at Tip of the Iceberg that she “basically used [her] own life as material”, and the story did feel very real and personal.
Her frustrations find outlet through a friendship with an eccentric neighbor and an affair with a man who respects her and nurtures her spirit and independence. Through hardship and grim determination, she learns to look with her own eyes, to feel with her own heart. She discovers a deep well of resilience and compassion, with room for growth and freedom. Her story is one of a leap of faith, away from despair and toward life at its fullest. Despite all odds, she navigates herself, through small but profound changes, into new ways of living, of relating to her friends, her daughter, herself.
[From the back cover]
The author is also a poet, and I think that careful wordsmanship comes through very clearly in her prose. There were some wonderful descriptions throughout, as well as some clever metaphors that beautifully express Ana’s struggle to become free.
He ran his fingers around the rim of the cup. “See how this isn’t even? The Japanese call this 'shibui', the flaw that makes something beautiful. The shape has to have some room, some freedom.” …. “Like with people,” he said, and she nodded.As an aside, I loved this quote because I, too, admire the natural, 'flawed' beauty often seen in Japanese pottery. We don't have any really fancy dishes but some of my favourites are the ones that we picked up in Mashiko, one of the areas in Japan famous for pottery, quite a few years ago. Some might consider them rough, and asymmetrical, but I think they're beautiful.
She pictured how he must have looked when he wrote the letter, saw his hands, his chapped, strong, tender hands, as he penned it. … He hadn’t needed to say more. … The words lay cruelly on the thick gray paper.I thoroughly enjoyed this slim novel and in fact, I would’ve been quite happy if it had been longer, but as it is, it’s a touching story with an important message. Namely, that no matter how we have ended up in a situation, whether through our own poor choices or not, we do have the power to change our circumstances, to escape if needed, if only we can find the strength within ourselves to do so. Truly, a lovely little book.
She imagined him planning it while chopping wood or wedging clay, giving his anger back to the earth, to hold for him. He would hold the anger in while he was at work. It would still be waiting for him when he got home. The anger would sleep with him at night, wrapping itself around his heart like the parasitic mistletoe on the juniper trees. It would reveal itself in the pots he made, in crude, squat stoneware heavy with the weight of their emptiness.
The author is working on her next book, apparently to be set in Canada, and I very much look forward to reading more by Sheila Ortego in the future.
For more information on the author or the book, visit Sheila Ortego's blog, and this article in the Huffington Post.
Thank you to the author, Sheila Ortego, for the opportunity to read this book.
Buy this book at: Amazon.com | Amazon.ca | Amazon.co.uk | BookDepository.co.uk | BookDepository.com
My Rating: 4/5
(#50 for 2009, ARC Reading Challenge)
Also reviewed at:
Tip of the Iceberg
Terra's Book Blog
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