“Book Review: Anything That Happens”
Reviewed by Susan E. Morris
An emotive journey of pain and forgiveness
Cheryl Wilder tells the story of a life-altering moment in Anything That Happens. It starts with an accident and offers a glimpse into judgment and recovery. While exploring the pain and anguish of grief and trauma, Wilder considers what it means to grieve for a friend, how to heal through forgiveness, and how to pursue meaning after tragedy.
The story is presented by a series of vivid poems, bringing the reader along on an intense internal journey that is palpable in poems like “Secrets:”
“I lay images across my body
until I can no longer breathe”
The collection is a candid and honest look at the consequences, judgements, reflections, and reverberations on a life as the perpetrator of the crime and the survivor moving on with life after an accident. The stark line of transition is beautifully described in this excerpt from “Bailed Out:”
“… I am two people now—
the before and the after; one I’ve already forgotten
the other I have not met. I hear voices whisper
what if—a crossroad so difficult to leave
I build a roadside bench.“
The poems in Anything that Happens puzzle together the emotions of life, fitting words into sharp, emotive slivers that pierce a heart with empathy. Pain, regret, hopelessness, and bitterness are offset by a need to belong, gratefulness for small kindnesses, and the love of a son.
To create this sense of empathy, it’s necessary to build a foundation. That’s where some of these poems focus in on how parents impact their children’s choices.
One great example of this is in the poem “Inheritance,” where Wilder offers heart-wrenching snippets of the influence and impact a father has on his son. This is offset against several poems relating to her parents, from her father’s disconnection paid forward into her decisions and actions, to her mother’s role in poems like “No One Will Ever Love You:”
“I am chicken and dumplings
made by my mother
who took shit from No One.”
Slivers of joy – motherhood, salvation, love – are woven throughout this collection, like in “Speak of Crossroads:”
“our baby would carry my heart
in his tiny clenched fist”
But even those most precious moments are tainted by regret and a sense of lingering guilt. Wilder’s authentic and emotive writing is both an embrace and a withdrawal.
Ultimately, when forgiveness offers salvation, the more hopeful threads are left behind. But the reality of the collection seems to convey that the past has tarnished the present so completely that even the redemption is laced with bitterness over lingering scars. That element of the collection leaves me on a low note, hoping for another volume yet to come where Wilder feels she’s earned the redemption she so desperately seeks. For now, we end the collection with a sense of Wilder’s never-ending quest for healing, a vision toward the future.
Publisher: Press 53
Print Length: 82 pages
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