Thunder Bay reviewer Michael Sobota has written the following review which appeared in the Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal. I’m pleased and honoured to reprint it here. Many thanks, Michael!

Reflections of a Life Well Lived

Love & Loss
True Stories that Reveal the Depths of the Human Experience
Edited by Renee Hollis
Published by Exisle Publishing Pty Ltd.
2020 Hardcover 229 pages   $25.99

A Review by Michael Sobota

Thunder Bay’s own Margie Taylor, now living in British Columbia, wrote about the loss of her husband in a powerful essay titled Aftermath.   A couple of years ago, Exisle publishing, based in Australia, announced an international call for writings about love and loss.

Submissions came in from all over the world and were culled down to the twenty-five authors that are included in this volume.

The surprise gift, to me, of this collection is that all of the pieces are good and some of them are great.  And Taylor’s piece is one of the very best.

This is a collection of mature writers and writing.  All of the pieces are reflections, often of a life well lived, a nearly indescribable love, a profound loss.

The pieces vary from a glowing reminiscence of a mother by her daughter.  A mother’s agonizing vulnerability upon the loss of her daughters. A woman struggling with the afterlife of her husband’s death.  A mature man’s close encounter with a youthful lusting after a spectacular dessert.

Taylor’s essay is about grappling with how to move forward after her husband dies.  “Learning to walk again” is how she opens the piece. It is as though she was catapulted back into childhood and everything is unknown and unusual and uncomfortable, as though you are in another country “And you really, really don’t want to be there.”

In three brief sections, no more than five pages, she provides insight and revelations that only experiential maturation could deliver.  This is a rich and rewarding piece, so full of love without being sentimental, laughter without disrespect, and hard-earned wisdom from that struggle to move on.

The second-best piece is by that man who pursues a childhood lust, the describably delicious looking dessert, the Knickerbocker Glory.

The author, Roger Chapman, was taken out to dinner as a young child by his mother and offered three dessert choices.

One of these, treacle tart, has been his favourite.  And then he sees a waiter carrying this splendid concoction over to another table.   When asked, his mother tells him “that is Kinckerbocker Glory,” adding, he can’t have it.

The sheer sight of the dreamy desert remains embedded in the boy’s memory and, fast forwarding five decades, he finds himself again in a restaurant which has, to his astonishment, Knickerbocker Glory on the dessert menu.

But the service is slow.  His meal is delayed. He and his companions are on a firm timetable to get to a theatre performance.

The story reads like an edgy thriller.  I will not reveal the outcome, but to say what a deliciously funny read Mr. Chapman has given us.

All these stories are short but profoundly moving.  This is a great collection of writers, most of whom I had never read before.

Had I seen the volume in a book store, however, I would easily have passed it by.  The cover and its colours are dull and the design bland. It has an awkward shape and light weight for a hardcover volume.   It’s a great example of that old saw “Do not judge a book by its cover.” 

The inside design is equally bland.  And there are no biographical details about the twenty-five writers.

It is the writing that glows.  Get it for its content. Highly recommended.

Michael Sobota is a Thunder Bay-based writer and reviews books for The Chronicle-Journal.