Saturday, May 9, 2015

Books in Verse and a Happy Mother's Day

I don't know how it happens but I find myself wrapped in books written in verse. I prefer prose. And I prefer poetry that isn't free-wheeling and loosey-goosey but more structured, but I wanted to mention an extraordinary book: LIKE WATER ON STONE by Dana Walrath. I'm not sure how I came across it or why I was compelled to pick it up because I knew I'd be heartbroken to read a story about genocide, especially in light of what's occurring in the Middle East, but the book is so beautifully written, so controlled, it somehow gave me strength to face what is coming and also helped me to remember all the other terrible stories I've read throughout the years of the 20th century. The Jewish Holocaust, Stalin and Mao, the Killing Fields of Cambodia, Rwanda, and the carnage that occurs daily in mother's wombs. We have lived through the worst period in history, I believe. And we cannot forget.

The story is in multiple viewpoints but a major narrator is Ardziv, an eagle. He begins:

Three young ones,
one black pot,
a single quill,
and a tuft of red wool
are enough to start
a new life
in a new land.
I know this is true
because I saw it.

I love this opening because it gives authority. "I saw it." And it gives away the ending so that you can hang on to this hope during the difficult times. You can hang on. This historical fiction with a hint of magic realism tells the story of an Armenian family and how some of them, the young ones, survive the genocide that occurred a hundred years ago. Each poem is a carefully crafted gem.

Most of the survivors are long dead and if their stories have survived, it's because their children and grandchildren have preserved them. Ms. Walrath is the granddaughter of a survivor. Thank you for writing this beautiful and haunting book that will stay with me a long time.
I do realize why books in verse can be so powerful. Some stories are too big and too emotional to be in prose. Poems are more like snapshots. It's like going through a photo album. LIKE WATER ON STONE was the BEST book in verse that I've read out of the several very good books in the batch, including BROWN GIRL DREAMING by Jacqueline Woodson, KARMA by Cathy Ostlere, and RED BUTTERFLY by Amy Sonnichsen. Each of these books were a joy to read. They were personal and gave me much food for thought, but none surpassed the craft of Ms. Walrath. Definitely a book to study.
I wish all mothers, both physical and spiritual, a happy Mother's Day, for the children you raise and wish you could have raised, for the sorrows and joys of motherhood. I leave you to the care of our Blessed Mother. Enjoy one of my favorite hymns to God's perfect creation -- Mary! Can you imagine making your own mother? Of course, she would be the most beautiful, most perfect creature of all. 


Mirka Breen said...

When I think of you, Vijaya, the first connotation is MOTHER. A very happy Mother's day to you and your spectacular family.

Carol Baldwin said...

Looks like a great book. Thanks for telling us about it!

Joyce Moyer Hostetter said...

Wow! I love this review, Vijaya - the way you give us a glimpse without telling the story line. And you do make me want to read it.

Bish Denham said...

Okay, now I've got more books to add to my TBR list! I guess I should thank you Vijaya, but I'm not sure! :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the great suggestion. I've just finished listening to an audio version of Brown Girl Dreaming--beautifully performed by the author. I loved hearing her words come alive. Hope you had a wonderful Mother's Day!

Faith E. Hough said...

Happy Mother's Day to you, Vijaya! Thanks for sharing about this book. Every once in a while I get in the mood for a good novel in verse, and this one looks beautiful!

Becky Shillington said...

I hope you had a happy Mother's Day, Vijaya! This looks like a beautiful book--thank you so much for the recommendation!

Melissa Sarno said...

I have grown to really love books in verse and I never shy away from touch topics. This sounds amazing. I will definitely check it out. Thanks for your thoughtful review.

Vijaya said...

Thank you all. I hope you will enjoy this beautiful book.