If you’re like me, when you finish the brilliant new chapbook Wild Life just about every other page will be dog eared. From the prodigal brother eating watermelon in the dark, to the Payless shoe store clerk who may or may not be a child abductor, to the couple with the new bed, you will turn the last page of this book and feel as though you have entered a truly beautiful and brilliant mind. And that mind belongs to the book’s author, Kathy Fish.

Fish’s wry humor, keen vision, and deft language will leaving you laughing one minute and crying the next. She is not manipulative with her words. She does not scream her stories. She does not thrust them down your throat. She offers them to you quietly. She offers them to you as a whispered prayer. In fact, what she does is trust you with her unique and precious gift.

Take, for example, “One Purple Finch” a gentle and unexpected love story that is utterly complex in its beautiful simplicity:

He would make pancakes for her, with berries and honey. And she would life the hem of her skirt. And she would build him a fire. And he would make her a card, drawing a picture on the front, of trees and one purple finch. And they would look at each other at the end of the day and say now what should we do? We should be friends forever and hold each other’s hands and tell each other when we have something stuck between our teeth and trade anecdotes and say oh you told me this before but I love hearing you tell it, so tell it to me again. And you should untie my sneakers when I am weary and I will wear the silky aquamarine robe when you want me to.

All of the pieces in this book moved me in some way, but the one that will not ever let me go is “Spin” which is about a mother and her young child. As a teacher tries to get the mother to “redirect” her child and teach him how to conform to a certain way of learning, she remembers her past life, mourns her imagined present, and learns to live in the moment and the successes that seem small, but are immeasurable. I would argue that this story will push its way into even the hardest heart and that once the reader gets to the end, he will understand this mother’s heartache and her incredible love:

When she finished, she found him lying flat under the sofa cushions. She wondered if she was supposed to unbury him. She sat on the floor and leaned in as close as she could. She felt the boy’s breath on her face. It smelled like apples.

“Hello in there,” she whispered.

This book is a gift and I hope you will read it.

4 Comments on “Wild Life, by Kathy Fish

  1. Myf, thank you so much for this thoughtful review. Means the world to me. Kat, thank you too!


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