Of Words and Water is a collection of short stories and poems dedicated to the subject of water. It was put together by Jay Howard with the idea that it would be distributed for free, with encouragement for donations to the WaterAid charity.
Despite all this good works intention, the book stands the test of quality extremely well. It has obviously been meticulously edited and selective in the submissions that were accepted for inclusion. I've enjoyed reading it very much!
It starts out with a short poem called River, followed by the editor's short introduction and a well-known fable about a cracked vase. This is followed by a story called Oreille which has a decidedly French flavour and some wonderful imagery. It is an excerpt from a book, which I may need to read in full.
Formless Like Water by Dax Christoher is next and is described as an "arrhythmic poem". I found it both emotional and chilling, and read it as though the water of the earth was speaking directly to me. This is followed by Battling Waves by Jason Parent, a story of a parent taking his son to the beach and trying to give him some freedom in the water, despite his own near-tragic memories of a close encounter with death in his childhood.
I was thrown off in the next story, A Nice Cup of Tea, by present tense writing. Maybe it's just me but it always seems wrong in a novel or story. Despite that, the story was evocative and well-written. Then a cutesy poem about water sprites follows after which we get the first part of a rather depressing story about a death at a mine and a boy who hates water because his daddy drowned.
From there we move into a fantasy world with mermaids and the heart-wrenching story of what happens when they cross breed with men and get a child who can't live in water with its mother. Le-ina's Sorrow by Jaq D. Hawkins brought tears to my eyes and I don't mind admitting it! The next story, Fortunes by Neel Kay, presents a complete contrast in a tale about a bride completely obsessed with making her wedding perfect, despite a bridesmaid who has suddenly started neurotically avoiding water. The wedding is to occur on a boat.
Next up was my brother, Her husband by Mike Duron. It's a short piece which is explained as an exercise in imagery and is done very well, though it's a little stalkerish. Sea Bright by Ali Isaac follows, a poignant study of motherhood and loss. I admit I got very involved in this story. I've never had such an experience, but I could really feel the anguish of the pregnant mother as she struggled over the decision she had to make. I would have liked a little more information at the ending though.
Prime Directive by Mona Karel appealed to the Trekkie in me. Almost Bradbury-like science fiction with shades of The Man Who Fell To Earth in a plot about ecological balance and alien intervention. Hell Hath Fury was a continuation of Mark Bell's earlier story, Appalachian Spring. I found this series of tales borderline disturbing, but the writing was certainly effective. Lovecraft fans would likely enjoy these.
Next was Love Call Me Home by Peggy Seeger. As there is a chorus it is presumably song lyrics. Without the music it's hard to judge, but luckily the text provides a link to samples on the author's website. The music genre is a little too country for my personal taste, but the lady has a beautiful clear voice and this particular song is rather pleasant. Then we are back to stories with Treading Water by Sylvie Nickels. It's a very well written and heart warming story about a woman who missed her chance at professional swimming as a girl, and a boy who struggles to learn to swim.
The next story is Dreams by Kathryn O'Halloran. This one really blew me away! Right away it hit a discordant note and was at times disturbing, yet it captured the inner thoughts of an artistic mind in a way that was unbelievably expressive. The collection is worth reading if just for the feelings invoked by this story!
FWISH by Mike Duron is next and is an interesting experiment in writing phrases that represent two sentences at the same time so that they can't possibly be read out loud. Oddly, it works. It struck as the sort of thing a child might enjoy reading, sort of on the same level as Dr Suess, yet different.
Another seven excellent entries await the reader in this substantial anthology of above average talent.
As a whole, the writing ranges from good to excellent. It is plain to see that the stories were chosen to meet a certain standard rather than just using whatever was available. Even with making a substantial donation to the charity the collection was compiled to support I think it's better value than many anthologies currently on the market.
(review of free book)