ARS BOTANICA by Tim  Taranto


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An unusual narrative of loss that becomes both a meditation on the Earth and a benediction for one who won't be around to enjoy it.

Taranto's first book is a poetic memoir steeped in beginnings and endings. The narrative is composed of a series of letters to an unborn child, whom the author addresses as Catalpa, interspersed with illustrated botanical definitions, poems, observations, song lyrics, and bursts of dialogue. This assorted correspondence with a lost child is primarily an explanation (and perhaps an apology) of how the child’s conception began but was ultimately terminated. Taranto writes of how he and his girlfriend met, each helping the other work through their troubles. She loved him despite his alopecia, a medical condition that left him hairless; he stuck by her following a near-fatal bicycle accident that not only broke several bones, but, during the hospital visit, led to the realization that she was pregnant. Taranto memorializes a difficult period in his life, made all the more painful because the abortion was not inevitable. The basic reason was that the couple didn’t really know each other that well, an explanation that seemed to suit her more than him. The book is not an anti-abortion tract; Taranto did not interfere with her decision and offered solace and support. But by its very nature, the story is haunted by lost possibilities. At one point, the author utters a prayer that God take him instead of the baby: "Let me be a father only in memory if she can be a mother in this life. Amen." The prayer went unanswered; the closest Taranto would get to fully realizing the fatherhood of Catalpa is through an act of memory and imagination, for which this one-way epistolary emotional scrapbook will have to suffice.

An uneven, often heart-wrenching attempt at resolving a personal struggle through art but also a sobering consideration of how things happen—or don’t.

Pub Date: July 11th, 2017
ISBN: 978-1-940430-98-0
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Curbside Splendor
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 2017


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