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Author of AGAINST A DARKENING SKY, THE EMPTY ROOM, OUR DAILY BREAD, and others. Find out more at www.LaurenBDavis.com. I read as if my sanity depended upon it.. . . oh, wait, it does! Snort.

to live on the wind

to live on the wind - Nanette Rayman-Rivera I'm torn about this book. I picked it up with much interest, in no small part because like the author I found myself on my own at a very young age. I also share with Ms. Rayman-Rivera a family background of similar insanity and dysfunction, and like her, alas, am a survivor of violent crime. Ms. Rayman-Rivera's memoir is unrelentingly grim and the sexual violence is graphic and appalling in its repetition. Fair enough. Life can be like that. And certainly the experiences she so lyrically describes are haunting and heartbreaking. One cannot fail to be moved by the plight of this thrown-away and clearly emotionally fragile girl. As well, I have no doubt Ms. Rayman-Rivera is a fine poet. Certainly there is much poetic language here, some of it quite wonderful. For example, a fragrance her mother uses is "...dense and Oriental. It fills the room with a velvet fever." Very nice. For the most part the imagery is intentionally, and appropriately rather repulsive, and Ms. Rayman-Rivera uses it to good effect. However, in my opinion, the book's flaws outweigh the considerable power of the language. For one thing, at 454 pages it's entirely too long. It could have done with a darn good editing. I would love to see it pared down to the essentials, all the self-indulgence stripped away, all the "darlings" dead and buried. It would have been better at 300 pages. The dialogue is often too poetic to ring true and at times the imagery fights with itself. For example, at one point the Ms. Rayman-Rivera, in conversation with her father, says: "You promised to get me back to the girl putting on plays by the sea, running through lavender, through sky and bird, remember?" Apart from the fact I'm not convinced anyone actually talks like this, how, exactly, does one run through 'bird?' Other examples, pulled from randomly opening the book..."The sweat pouring from my body is all-night trumpets." or, "I'm walking on breastplate metal." I'm sorry, perhaps I'm missing something (wouldn't be the first time), but I don't get it, and that sense of not-getting-it interferes with my emotional involvement. And perhaps this is petty, but I was a bit put off by how often the narrator is referred to as beautiful. Although I have no doubt she is quite lovely, it seems odd that every character she encounters remarks almost immediately upon her physical charms. It wears after a while. In the end, the poetics feel defensive, as though the author protects herself from her horrific experiences by turning them into hallucinogenic dream-images. I was reminded of Anais Nin, although the prose is far less restrained than even that somewhat self-indulgent writer. The endless mouth-feel of the language was numbing and, for this reader alienating.However, as if you like surreal writing, writing that is language-driven and deeply, if not always successfully, poetic, I think you will like this book, and you will certainly experience a gut reaction to the events contained therein.