Tuesday, August 23, 2016
Review: A Piece of Sky, A Grain of Rice
paperback, 274 pages
A review copy of this book was provided through TLC Book Tours
The best way for me to represent this unusual memoir would be with a mind map. A visual representation would be an appropriate response to this very original and complex book. There are repeated images patterns, and themes, interwoven in a complex and deeply absorbing meditation on life as experienced by one woman.
Christine Hale has chosen an interesting approach to telling her story: instead of presenting a chronological narrative, she presents her life as a series of moments or vignettes, weaving back and forth in time, and coming back again and again to the repeated patterns and themes of her life.
A Piece of Sky, A Grain of Rice explores a woman's life from the perspective of her relationships and roles in the lives of others; Hale is presented in her roles as daughter, sister, wife, mother, and in each role she grasps at intimacy and the desire for something in return. Whether she is talking about her embattled and enmeshed relationship with her abusive mother, or her longing for an elusive love, Hale addresses her "beloved" love object as "You" throughout the book, further emphasizing the repetition of patterns of clinging, suffocation, and loss.
Images, emblems, themes and patterns are repeated throughout the narrative: the "You" (an ever-changing object of love, obsession, and even anger); desire, abuse; depression, dreams; writing; and Buddhist practice. One story-line that helps weave the many moments together is a story involving tattoos that the author and her two children receive--tattoos that symbolically and physically connect the family and the pieces of the story.
In some ways Hale's story is a very ordinary tale of an ordinary life. What makes this memoir engaging and unique is the way the author weaves together the insights she has gleaned from her life; she presents her mistakes, her pain, and her shame in a subdued and calm tone that aims more for understanding and enlightenment than drama.
Hale seems never to try to make herself seem either better or worse than she really is. A Piece of Sky, A Grain of Rice is a poetic meditation, the storm of emotion recollected in a state of calm. Because of the psychological insight and emphasis on Buddhist practice, I think this memoir would especially appeal to Buddhist practitioners, spiritual seekers, and those in recovery from abuse or depression. Hale brings a mature wisdom and spiritually insightful perspective to her meditation on her life, a story that many women will relate to--or at least find extremely compelling.