Sunday, October 02, 2011

Review of Sheila Deeth's FLOWER CHILD

The Metaphysics of Connection

What is the nature of reality? How do emotions distort it? The liminal state between what’s known and what’s not is a threshold rife with the unfathomable. Begging readers’ willing suspension of disbelief, Sheila Deeth allows us to enter, through colloquial but poetic language and vivid descriptions, into the porous consciousness of her characters.
Flower Child explores the grief of Megan, who miscarries the daughter she names Angela for the angel she hopes she has become. But the child is in limbo, tethered to a place that recalls the Garden of Eden, a plane inhabited by angel-guardians who watch over babies until they are born. The babies who aren’t, (i.e. Ms. Deeth introduces a pair of siblings aborted in favor of a third baby) stay enveloped in flower pods, swaddled in greenery. “I was safe and secure, wrapped in my nest of leaves ‘til it was time to wake again” Angela says, just after being miscarried.
The story is alternately narrated by Angela and her mother, so intimately and intricately connected, but each is unsure of the other. Angela worries that her mother doesn’t want or love her, while Megan believes the glimpses of her little girl are dreams or hallucinations. To connect over such chasms of space and time seems impossible, but somehow they do—Angela, growing faster than a human child, goes through the usual stages of development on Megan’s watch.  Like any mother, she becomes suspicious, judgmental, then panicked when Angela eats the proverbial apple. 
Moving from temptation to temptation, Angela falls in love with Elisha, one of the triplets sacrificed for the health of his sibling. With his love, Angela “feels real”, but her mother is still in emotional limbo. In the climactic scene echoing the Passion of Christ, Angela struggles with her choice: self preservation or altruistic sacrifice; with the skillful tying together of theme and allusion across genres, Ms. Deeth has her act on her decision.
The metaphysical complexity of the conclusion, the conflation of the mortal and immortal, recalls Freud’s theory about the nature of reality -- the idea that though reality is intersubjective, this “collective hallucination” is experienced by people in both congruent and divergent ways. The shifting perspectives of Deeth’s characters underscore the dynamic nature of reality, and Ms. Deeth makes us believe in a character not of this earth as easily as her all too human mother.
Flower Child is catalogued as speculative Christian fiction; but like most labels, that falls short in describing a novella combining the lyrical and the literary with the quotidian and the extraordinary to make a unique and touching story that will be hard for any reader to forget.


Sheila Deeth said...

Thank you so much Cheryl! A review like this makes it all worthwhile!

Cheryl Snell said...

My pleasure, Sheila!