This is a tough one to review, readers. This story is as captivating as it is frightening. It’s as amazing as it is horrifying. And it’s as memorable as it is, unfortunately…memorable.
The author states that this read encompasses a number of things. I can see the memoir elements, some fiction, some “magic,” and some almost lyrical poetry within the pages. And even though the subject matter is something I have no desire to remember, I know I will. In fact, I found myself giving this author a standing ovation when the story came to a close. Not only for her fantastic and well-developed writing, but also for the fact that if this author lived through even one moment of this nightmare, she has my utmost respect.
We first meet Jean-Marie (aka: JM) Stark when she’s a grown woman, getting a demanding phone call from her brother, Adam, telling her to go to a local hospital because their mother has been taken there. She’s in serious condition, and he is simply tired of dealing with the situation. When JM arrives and sees her mother lying there—weakened from a life of drugs, suicide attempts, and a parade of somewhat hideous males that all came together to give her a stroke—JM’s mind begins to wander back to her own beginnings…opening a door to the reader that involves a real-life definition of what the famous and infamous 60’s “Summer of Love” was all about for this child.
The reader proceeds to attend grade school with Jean, where the only person there who’s even pleasant towards her is the school nurse. First, however, we watch this innocent child wake up in a house that smelled like a drug party and that included naked people leftover on the couch, vomit on the floors, and her own mother, Marie, who’s once again with child. Jean must traverse a carpet that is also serving as a bed for a man she calls ScaryJerry – and for a very good reason – in order to get to school in time just so her completely empty stomach can get a box of raisins the teacher gives out to students. Jean lives this life with her brother, Adam, as well as her sister, Krystal. They each have had their own occurrences with monsters their mother has chosen over time, as well as various fostering episodes where one went to live one place, and two went to another. Jean speaks of her biological father, as well as others from her past, and readers get a view of all of them. One, a blind man named Michael, tries to be as kind as possible to Jean. Even though he’s suffering through his own drug issues and detox, her mother feels there’s a “magical quality” about Michael and shows him the motherly affection that she can’t seem to find for her own children.
One escape that Jean has throughout the story is an invisible friend by the name of Willothin. This is the girl Jean can see; she believes completely in her friend, who whispers words of hope in her ears during the darkest of days, and offers a shoulder for Jean to lean on during the terrible times she lives through.
As the author moves the story flawlessly, from past to present, her words flow and keep the reader’s attention by showing JM in the hospital reading a copy of her own manuscript to her comatose mother one minute, before moving on to the next scene that shows Jean growing up in this nightmarish time period which ended up being personified by the peace sign, yet was one of the most painful and tortured times in America.
The author deserves rewards in this life, as well as awards for this book about a childhood that brought about as much wonder and imagination in the form of Willothin, as it did sadness and hardship for the teller of the tale. I also state here that the author is a far better person than I am. Although I thought myself to be a good person, once I read this I found out that I did not own the strength she has; thankfully, I never had to go through an inkling of what she did, but I know that I would never be able to find appreciation or offer forgiveness to any of the demons this woman wrote about.
For others who have experienced the pain that this author has, I hope they find her faith, reflections, and road to liberation to be a huge help. I believe that the story is one that will support them and allow them to find the happiness they so deserve in this life. For me, as a reader who has been honored to see excellence between the covers, I give this author “5-Stars” and I wish her all the best in her future endeavors.
Quill says: This is an outstanding book that offers a stunning core of faith and beauty set against a backdrop of total darkness.
What Feeds the Heart
By: Daryl Glinn-Tanner
Published by: Atmosphere Press
Publication Date: November 8, 2021
Reviewed By: Amy Lignor
Review Date: December 17, 2021