Review of Carole Lanham’s “The Whisper Jar”
Carole Lanham has compiled a series of intriguing poems and short stories that all revolve around the experiences of children in dark and strange places-sometimes these places are in the mind, and in other instances, geographically and chronologically distance lands that seem like dreamscapes, even if they are in places as commonplace as a farm in rural Iowa. The stories here have a way of tantalizing without revealing too much, too soon. Many of the stories tease about the relationships among boys and girls-their dreams and fears, lusts and passions. And while what the characters are experiencing seem so real and within your grasp as a reader, there is a magic allure to them that makes them fleeting and illusive. They have an otherworldly quality about them. It is not just the tales with obvious magic, like ‘Keepity-Keep’ or ‘Friar Garden…’, or the tales beset with monsters, like ‘The Good Part’ or ‘The Blue Word’, but every tale and every poem within this compilation. Even though ‘Maxwell Treat’s…’, ‘The Reading Lessons’, and ‘The Forgotten Orphan’ all seem as if they could take place in the real world-our world-the author manages to transport us to mysterious and alien realms in them that are fascinating and dark beyond the realities most of us will ever deal with.
I enjoyed this compilation. I had read ‘The Blue Word’ previously, and while I normally skip a tale when I come across it for the second time, I found myself compelled to read it again and was filled with the same level of sadness and regret that I felt the first time, even when I knew what was coming at the end of the story. It is one of my favorites in this book, along with Keepity-Keep. Some of the other tales didn’t resonate with me quite as much, but they still had a flavor to them that is hard to pin down or describe-like a meal in a restaurant you’ve never been to before. They sort of leave a odd taste in your mouth, but not in a bad way…in more of a fantastical way that sticks with taste buds long after the food is gone. There wasn’t a particular story or poem I didn’t like-the author pulled me in with each, and even if there may have been a certain aspect or one or the other that didn’t click for me (the ending of ‘Friar Garden’ seemed rather abrupt for my tastes), they all made sense in a strange, dream-filled way.
Carole Lanham has a tremendous talent for the written word. I don’t just mean this because she can craft a story, which she most certainly can do, but because there is a particular quality to each story that transports you, like some authors are able to do-taking you elsewhere with just a few words in the first few sentences. Some authors make you feel at home with their writing, as if you are reading about people you feel like you know and could find yourself surrounded by even if they are in a environment that is pure fantasy or beyond belief. Carole Lanham does not do that here, in this book. Instead, she has the knack of introducing characters and places that take you out of that comfort zone and puts you on alert that there is something strange going on, both in the world at large and within the characters themselves that make them different from you or I. You may not be able to figure it out right away, and even if you think you do, you realize that there is probably more to it with every passage you read. And in the end, things don’t all fall into place. You are left wondering what just happened.
The Whisper Jar is a compelling read, sweet and savory while often times leaving you squirming with discomfort as you journey through its pages.
You can find The Whisper Jar here: http://www.amazon.com/The-Whisper-Jar-ebook/dp/B0062ID33K/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1324185038&sr=8-1