What's In A Book? Everything Imaginable! The Plum Tree Book Forum
Orange Petals In a Storm by Dr. Niamh Clune
Publisher: Plum Tree Books
Ever since Charles Perrault’s Cendrillon in 1697, and previously, I’m sure, there have been tales of young women portrayed as flowers living among the thorns. As awakened authors write to impart self-awareness on society, in an effort to raise our consciousness or simply have us remember, tales of heroes born of hardship emerge, bringing hope and renewed belief in our human cohorts.
Niamh Clune, being such an author, delivers a moving tale in Orange Petals in a Storm. Narrated from an omniscient point of view, Clune describes Skyla McFee’s brush with assault and abuse, in tender strides, her style reminiscent of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s panache in the fabled Little Prince. Grace, attention to detail, and the hesitant ramblings of an eleven-year-old mind set the mood, helping us recapture our own delicate youths.
The story opens on the mystery of Skyla plodding through the streets of East London. “Those in the warm safety of their cars … might indeed have wondered what she was doing there mud-stained and alone…” The author cleverly lets us know that our curiosity, unlike that of those drivers, will be sated, and we feel compelled to read on.
Though there isn’t a lot of dialogue in the first pages, succinct descriptions manage to draw all our senses into the story. “…The moon made all of London sparkle, as it reflected in millions of droplets that had drenched everything.”
In a timely fashion, characters are introduced to complete the picture of Sarah’s world. By the time the family she lives with becomes second nature to the reader, having us squirm to reach into the book and physically pluck Sarah from their grasp, Clune introduces a potent ingredient to the plot, a seasoning that not only renders her story unique and refreshing, but teaches us all a lesson on the power and influence of a child’s imagination.
The chapters devoted to Skyla’s inner mind actually brought me back to my own childhood, and I suspect the author delved into her own memories in order to bring such authenticity to Sarah’s thoughts.
Add a cat called Mick to the plot, and an old remnant that once belonged to Skyla’s mother, and you enter a magical realm that will grab, possess, and uplift you to the very end. “Shimmering thread appeared …its delicacy belied its strength. Wondering where the thread might lead, she stepped out into the mists, into the sparkling, silvery realm…”
Gram is quite the character and sticks in my mind. At times she cajoles, and at times she scolds while appearing pleased to punish the child. Through the author’s skill of ordering words, we come to learn of Gram’s twisted reasons behind the turmoil she causes Sarah. Other worthy characters stand out: Gene, the dud of a father, and the two sisters that torment Skyla, and Clarice, the mean reflection to Skyla’s innocence.
Orange Petals in a Storm first led me to believe the title had to do with a collection of prose, since the author, Niamh Clune, is a well-known poet. In 2002, she earned a PhD from Surrey University, UK, in “Acquiring Wisdom through the Imagination.” She is also the author of the recently published The Coming of the Feminine Christ. I suspect that her educational background is the reason her characters leap off the pages, allowing her to enhance on the very important question of ‘why’ her characters act as they do.
I highly recommend Orange Petals in a Storm to those who want to recapture their youth, or simply need a good feeling and a warm hug. Although I found the conclusion unfolded quickly, I’m told that this is the sign of a memorable story. “You know you’ve read a good book when you turn the last page and feel a little as if you have lost a friend.”—Paul Sweeney
Reviewer: Joss Landry