An old-fashioned narrative poem that deftly captures the deadly wonder of the Silk Road.

THE DEMON OF THE WELL

An old caravan trader tells a tale of treasure and greed in this long debut poem.

With a bit of cajoling, a group of children convinces an old trader who lives in the town’s “caravanserai” to tell them his story—one he seems reluctant to talk about. Years ago, in a time of war and instability, the trader traveled alone, attempting to make money in a neighboring city. He overheard two brothers discussing the location of a hidden treasure: a cup of great power that showed its owner visions of the past and future. The trader imagined himself in possession of it: “With such powers I could rule / with greater sanity, I swore, / than these cruel and heedless / rulers with their cruel and senseless wars.” He presented himself to the brothers as a desert guide, able to lead them to the remote Devil’s Springs that they sought. At the springs, the trader encountered the eponymous demon of the well, who made an infernal deal with the man in exchange for the cup. It was a pact that would have consequences that still plague the trader—and his country—in the storyteller’s present. Hendricks’ tale has an ancient quality to it that comes both from its setting and its form. Told in rhyming couplets, the poem reads like something concocted by one of the Fireside Poets: “I was growing quite impatient / when at last he reappeared. / And brandishing the magic cup, / he brought it up quite near. / ‘A bargain is a bargain / as a trader would agree. / And now for this handsome treasure / you must give your soul to me.’ ” The imagery, which the author says was inspired by the landscapes of the Tarim region in modern China and by the historical Silk Road, is evoked with skill and subtlety. There are a few lines where the rhymes feel forced or the rhythm gets clunky, but overall Hendricks manages to sustain an aura of mystery and magic. One could imagine hearing the poem read aloud around a summer campfire or on a chilly winter night.

An old-fashioned narrative poem that deftly captures the deadly wonder of the Silk Road.

Pub Date: Jan. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5439-9334-9

Page Count: 74

Publisher: BookBaby

Review Posted Online: Dec. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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A heartfelt and engaging Christian parable about the mechanisms of divine will.

THE HIDDEN HAND OF GOD

A novella focuses on the hidden workings of God in the lives of ordinary people.

This story by Paul and Bland opens with a seemingly incongruous sight: Two men eating their lunches on a bench in a freezing downpour. And the more readers learn about the men, the more bizarre things get. The younger-looking one is Charlie, a substitute mail carrier who was recently finishing up his route when he suddenly died. And his companion is Everett, an unconventional angel Charlie sometimes suspects may be a kind of substandard model. Charlie knows that it’s part of Everett’s purpose to “show how the mighty hand of God worked in people’s lives.” Witnessing this is a step in Charlie’s own post-death journey. As for Charlie himself, “he could feel evil and how it tried to latch on to anyone within reach”—the diametric opposite of the heaven he had experienced, a place that “pulsated with love.” This eager reaching of evil to seize everyone around it informs the meetings Charlie and Everett quickly have—with Martin, the owner of a local bike shop; Eva, a postal worker already frustrated on her first day on the job; middle-aged waitress Karen, who “went about her life without realizing she was a mighty warrior, a saint who was troubling the Enemy’s plans”; and others. With clear, inviting prose and remarkable concision, the authors draw readers into these separate lives and twine their tales together. The fantasy backstory of angels is seamlessly woven into the well-realized depictions of regular town life, and the chapters are paced with a page-turning sensitivity. One prominent atheist character is portrayed as the thinnest straw-man caricature of an unbeliever, but readers willing to overlook that flaw will find a surprisingly complex and heartwarming tale in the rest of the book.

A heartfelt and engaging Christian parable about the mechanisms of divine will.

Pub Date: Feb. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-982221-36-2

Page Count: 104

Publisher: BalboaPress

Review Posted Online: May 8, 2020

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