Sunday, April 3, 2016

Book Review: Sing Me Your Scars by Damien Angelica Walters

There are times when humanity can go numb, when the sensation of pain is all that reminds you that you're alive. Whether you seek the pain or have it forced on you, it gives drive to much of life. In this collection, pain is explored in a number of forms, voluntary and involuntary, and we see just what it can make people do to survive it.
That's my summary. Here's the one I pulled from Amazon

Sometimes a thread pulled through the flesh is all that holds you together. Sometimes the blade of a knife or the point of a nail is the only way you know you're real. When pain becomes art and a quarter is buried deep within you, all you want is to be seen, to have value, to be loved. But love can be fragile, folded into an origami elephant while you disappear, carried on the musical notes that build a bridge, or woven into an illusion so real, so perfect that you can fool yourself for a little while. Paper crumples, bridges fall, and illusions come to an end. Then you must pick up the pieces, stitch yourself back together, and shed your fear, because that is when you find out what you are truly made of and lift your voice, that is when you Sing Me Your Scars.

The short stories in this anthology run the gamut from present-day settings to fantastical and science-fiction settings. In each case, though, we're faced with a form of humanity, whether plain people you might meet on the street to humans who are just a little different. But those differences are all tied together by the pain they feel. It's motivation, no matter what sort of person they are.

Walters's style is a little choppy and clipped, with frequent little exchanges. This doesn't happen all the time, but it did stick out to me. When Walters got into deep settings and exchanges, the writing flowed well. But there were often times when a story was broken up into moments in time, just a few sentences or even a few words. It wasn't grating, but all those little stops and starts were a bit on the jarring side, making it harder for me to really sink into the stories. I didn't hate it by any means. I think her style may be a little bit of an acquired taste, though. I'd read more of her stuff, though.

My Thoughts
I wasn't sure what to think when I picked up this anthology. I quickly got sucked into the stories, though, and there were some really great narratives in this collection. There were a fair few I didn't care for, but the majority were engaging and compelling, and I hated it when they ended. Maybe a handful of them were so interesting to me that I wanted them to be novels in their own rights.
Overall, I was intrigued with the variations on the theme of pain Walters explored. From physical to emotional, self-inflicted to accidental to intended to violent, each story had a very different theme to itself. Some of the stories were shockingly beautiful, some infuriating, and more than one had me near tears, especially at the end. There's even an exploration or two on the pain of love itself. Walters's work on all these stories was sincere and masterful.
One or two of the stories could have used a little more explanation, but it didn't detract from my enjoyment of the collection as a whole. This was a very interesting read, and I can think of a couple stories that I'll want to reread again in the future.

Would I Recommend This Book? Why not! The stories are varied and numerous, all different with their own draws. I wish there had been more of some and less of others, but that's the nature of collections. You can't please everyone all the time. Some of the subject matter is dark, but I don't feel like anything crossed a line. At least, not for me personally. I give Sing Me Your Scars a stitched 4 of 5 stars.

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