The action begins dramatically--an eleven-year-old girl running away in a rainstorm, escaping the slow death of a cold and unforgiving home to be received by the cold, unforgiving torrent of a winter storm.
A symbolic sort of thing, I thought, and well done. The book then moves away from the immediate storm and into the minds of the main characters, a definite change of pace which gave me pause. As I continued, I realized that much of the novel was going to be focused on the inside workings of the characters' minds rather than limiting the focus to action.
Author Niamh Clune is "a writer, teacher, spiritual psychologist, award-winning social entrepreneur, environmental campaigner and award-winning writer of songs." Orange Petals in a Storm reads in places much like The Celestine Prophecy and in other parts of the novel reads somewhat like the medieval morality play Everyman.
This novel is an allegory, a myth, a fantasy, and a sociological and psychological study. It contains boys who are cats, Threads of Prophesy, and families with histories of generations of repeated trauma and abuse. It is a beautiful story of hope, and a chronicle of the ugliness of the world.
It is the story of Skyla McFee, an orphan at eleven years of age, a brave and mystical child thrown into an unknown world. Clune's message that we structure our own realities and that we are in control of our own fates--that the outer depends on the inner--structures this tale and is the wellspring of its power.
The book has its weaknesses. Although the novel is generally proofread well, there are lapses in the use of the past perfect tense, requiring the reader to determine if the narrative is part of the current storyline or a digression into the past. (Or is this a deliberate democratization of the experience of time?) There are also moments of extended explanation where the "inner novel" becomes summary or overview. This is not a long novel, though, and Dr. Clune's description of mental experience with concrete imagery is an over-riding and reassuring presence.
Clune's symbolic representation of Skyla's descent into her mystical self, beginning about halfway through the novel where we are introduced to The Chair and then The Door and then The Room, is a fantastic journey of the imagination and a symbolic representation of one individual's search within herself for the power and purpose of her life. The mythic and psychological representation of color and the primary elements are skillfully woven into the story.
If you are looking for a satisfactory resolution of the conflicts of life, then Orange Petals in a Storm ends well. It was a real pleasure to follow Skyla as she searched within herself for the power to meet her challenges--and it was especially satisfying to be with her as she discovered that helping herself also meant helping others, healing herself also meant healing others.
Read this novel as a journey of the blending of inner and outer realities, of the blending of fact and myth. The world is as we are. Find yourself within and then give yourself to the world. We grow with the giving.
Copyright 2011 by Thomas L. Kepler, all rights reserved