January 12, 2015

The Secret Flower and other stories

“A fair blue flower grows there that grows in no other land.” –The Secret Flower

The Secret Flower and other stories, by Jane Tyson Clement, is a collection of short, parable-like stories. Each story evokes feelings of faith and anticipation, and leaves the reader serene and satisfied.

With the feel of a folktale, Ms. Clement’s writing is rich in symbolism, and her writer’s voice is reminiscent of early authors. In each tale she uses long sentences, vivid imagery, is heavy on description, and light in dialogue. Her gift of storytelling is profound, even intense.

Prior to each story, is a one-page poem, written by Ms. Clement, and a black and white illustration drawn by Don Alexander, that depicts a scene in the upcoming story.

The Sparrow
(Approximately 11 pages.)

Giles, a skilled wheelwright in the village of Drury, is a bitter, unfriendly man. Prue, his wife, seems to pay the price for his ways, living a lonely, friendless life, always searching and waiting for something—If she only knew what. Things change and come to light when a mysterious stranger comes to town…

The Storm
(Approximately 13 pages.)

A ferryman, miller, and forester are important and wealthy brothers in England, commissioned by the lord of the fief. They are trusted with much, but are rather selfish and don’t take joy in their tasks and prosperity. One night, fierce storms blow in, and each brother is fearful, worrying about their safety as well as the welfare of each other. And the villagers—how will they endure the storm in their flimsy cottages? As the winds howl and the storms grow more violent each brother hears a child crying in distress outside. Will they choose to venture into the frightful storm to save the child, or stay in the comfort of their warm, comfortable, and protective shelters?

The Innkeeper’s Son
(Approximately 11 pages.)

Four merry men proceed to tell an innkeeper about legends of the Christ Child walking the earth and performing miracles on Christmas. The Innkeeper says he once believed, but no longer, because even after much prayer, tithes, and lit candles, his son is still blind and of little use to him.

The men began to doubt and the merriment is soon gone. They wondered if the so-called miracles are ploys by the priests to get their pence.

Are Christmas miracles real? Will the Christ Child walk the earth this night?

The King of the Land in the Middle
(Approximately 22 pages.)

There is a king of the land of Middle, where everything is mediocre—not hot, not cold, not exciting, not boring. But one day, after drinking coffee prepared by a stranger, his awareness is awakened. It is hot! Curious about the world outside of Middle, he sets off to explore things he never knew existed.

This story makes me reminiscent of the following bible verses:

I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. –Revelation 3:15

To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; A time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

The White Robin
(Approximately 16 pages.)

Seth, a shepherd’s boy, sees a white robin. He tells his mother, schoolmaster, and friends, and they are all amazed by this beautiful, rare creature. Who’s ever seen a white robin? Who knew they existed?

In jest, Seth and his friends chant that the bird is as white as Solomon is black. Solomon hears their mocking words, but the boys are unconcerned of his feelings.

When calamity befalls the town, will the prejudice and apathy of the friends continue to burn in their minds, or will they reexamine their hearts and extinguish their scorching words?

This story just might be my favorite of the collection. Its message is heartrending and memorable, and the imagery is so strong.

The Secret Flower
(Approximately 78 pages.)

This is the last (and longest) story of the book, and probably the most unique. To be honest, I was uninterested in the beginning. The excessive description and history of England’s town of Colchester is a little boring, but as soon as I come to know the main character, Simon Beston, the story begins to take shape and keeps my interest throughout the rest of the story.

Simon, a lonely, somewhat bitter man, trudges aimlessly through life. He experiences great loss, listlessly goes about his business, stays largely to himself, and finally comes to an understanding that life is utterly grueling and pointless.

“Why breathe?”

That is, until he comes upon a stranger, a shepherd with a bright blue flower upon the breast of his tunic, who tells him of the far away city he is from.

“A city of music, and little children; a city where peace dwells, and no sorrow but what is shared and turned to blessing; a city of labor but no strife, where no man speaks but in honesty and love; where sin is turned back at the gate and driven out not by the sword of hate but by the seal of purity; a city beyond our words to reckon…I wish I could show it to you, brother.”

I can’t tell much more without spoiling the story, so I’ll leave it there. I can say, with a full heart, that this story leaves me with a host of emotions. Isn’t that what stories are intended to do?

Ms. Clement’s book is sensitive and nostalgic. It shares a message of hope, and as the back cover description states, offers a break from all the noise. What a lovely, and appropriate way to spend my reading time.

5 Great big stars!

Cover: Love it
Title: Love it
Publisher: Plough Publishing House
Pages: 172

I look forward to reading Ms. Clement’s, No One Can Stem the Tide, a book of poems revealing the explorations of a generous and honest soul.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a Review Copy from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The options I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

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