by Mary Angeline Bell

"I dreamed my winter frosts were at an end."

Opening with elegant photographs that detail the contrast between the darkness and the light, this book immediately transports readers into a meditative realm. As readers travel from poem to short story and photograph to photograph, they enter a world where image and word triptych work together to form a visual and verbal poetic experience. The poem-short story-photograph combination allows readers to choose which experience they desire, and the reader also has the power to decide when the experiences merge. That in itself makes this collection a standout from others.

In poems like "Spring at Last," readers find a solitary voice, one whose happiness relies on the existence of another. The voice in "Spring at Last" echoes in "Apart" as the speaker acknowledges humbly, "The day the window through which I saw you / seemed dark / And reflected the image / Of me alone." As it opens, the poem "False Premise" waxes reminiscent of Frost's "The Road Not Taken": "Two starting paths lay at my feet; I took the wider and the more complete." However, the poem then takes a dark but Thoreau-like turn, which will appeal to those readers who thrive on verse filled with natural imagery. However, the speaker wanders through an Eden-like environment filled with berries and fruits only to find themselves at a cliff, and the poem quickly transcends into a metaphor for life's two-faced nature. Later in the collection, readers cross into "River of Life." The poem opens with the powerful "Glacier of spirit / warmed by divine breath," and it reminds readers of the forces with which the natural world, along with the spiritual, rules. This theme continues throughout the collection, which will appeal to fans of poets like Emerson and Dickinson.

The collection's emphasis on balancing the darkness with the light and maintaining hope in the most adverse of circumstances continues in "On the Path": "Take the hope and build / your plans and goals / to share your joy." As readers near the collection's end, their path to enlightenment winds into "Contentment." This poem advocates fulfillment in a seemingly never-satisfied world: "My needs are met, though hopes are present still. Peace is in the heart, come either thrill or chill." Thus, the collection becomes a voice for readers careful enough to listen, one that understands that those seeking peace struggle in a chaotic world bent against them.

A different yet notable aspect of this collection is the incorporation of five short stories. The standout of these is "Claudia Procula," a monologue from Pontius Pilate's wife. In the story, Claudia Procula pleads with her husband to not crucify Jesus, telling him, "Pilate, if this man goes to His death, the shame will be upon your head!" This unique monologue forms a new tone for the crucifixion story, especially since readers may not think such a heroine existed. Another unique short story in the collection is "Look Now!" The highlight of this story is its overwhelming, emotional ending, which shows that even the deepest wounds can heal.

In its advocation of finding the light in every dark moment, this collection becomes the optimistic reader's guide to a better self and a better future. Artistically, it will appeal to both graphic and poetry seekers. Meditative and insightful, this collection becomes an exploration of the self and the spirit. With its humbled, confessional tone, the compilation's voice creates a conversation with readers, one that offers understanding and hope. Driven by its brightness and emphasis on the light, this book is the perfect accompaniment to other inspirational collections like Timothy Brown's The Keeper of Light.

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