A young essayist with a flair for poetic imagery offers a rites-of-passage collection that could almost be a memoir with a few more dots connected.
Baxter writes often about weather and emotional weather and frequently sees correspondence between the two. The combination is most powerfully dramatic in “From the Blue,” about a thunderstorm that electrocutes a young man working in the fields and the profound effect this has on both the essayist and the closely knit community: “We live on this little island of land, surrounded by waterways, the rivers, the lakes, and oceans, the streams below us, the aquifers. Bodies break and return to water and carbon. We all run out, eventually to the sea or rise up into the clouds.” In the title essay that serves as the collection’s centerpiece, the author writes with more edge and depth than she brings to the rest of the pieces, which mainly seem to concern a series of complicated romances, further complicated by what’s inside her head, culminating in the marriage that is the least detailed of these relationships (and the least romantic), quickly followed without explanation by divorce. It doesn’t bode well when she describes her relationship with the man who will become her husband with a tone that barely rises above resignation: “We are past the point of convincing ourselves that this is love. Which is a relief to some extent, like letting someone know your real name. It was nice having something noble to fight for but at least this is honest, as honest as we need it to be.” However, he may not have been past that point, or at least he likely wasn’t when he proposed marriage. Readers will be happy to learn in the acknowledgments, though not the essays, that love has finally gone right for Baxter, who now has a fiance she thanks “for inspiring me daily to live boldly.”
The author clearly takes her craft seriously, and given the intermittent flashes of promise shown here, hopefully she continues to work on it.