McCandless offers a mosaic of musings in her first collection of poetry and prose.
Fans of verse will find variety here, as this thin volume runs the gamut from prose pieces that read like journal entries (“Toilet Paper Legacy” describes a grandmother’s insistence on using only three sheets) to short witticisms (“If I am alone, / At Least I Can Say / I am In / Good Company”) to free verse poems such as “Candlefire,” which celebrates the beauty of living in the moment. There are also forced, end-stop rhyming poems; e.g., “Through A Glass Darkly” compares life’s “new vision” to wiping rain from a dark window: “Clarity, the new-found vista, / Warms the heart and heals the mind. / New—familiar?—well come is the / Long-sought pathway, now defined.” This introductory poem works well with the book’s theme of overcoming life’s struggles (McCandless suffers from fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome). Unfortunately, the work is rife with clichés; for example, in “CloudScapes,” the clouds are “endless plains of fluffy cotton.” The book’s format presents another weakness. Fonts and type faces differ; “The Thread” is presented in very small print—which may be difficult for low-vision readers to see. McCandless’ writing does have some surprising and dark moments. In the prose piece “Doubt,” the narrator is told that her father admitted to raping her when she was 2 years old. Though there are some whimsical glimpses at nature, the overall effort feels like a catharsis, with painful struggles wrapped in hope and good humor. For example, “Coping Strategies” contains an infectiously tongue-in-cheek list of ways to survive difficulties: “Tread water until you’re saved by the bell. It helps to mix your metaphors, / it gives you options.” When comparing life to a messy room in “Voice of Experience,” the narrator begins with a chuckle: “While standing at the center / Of a room in disarray, / One cannot help but wonder / How the hell it got that way.”
Readers shouldn’t expect Sylvia Plath, but those who like “confessional” writing may be inspired by McCandless’ spirit.