(c) Riham Adly
A Review by Love is Make-Believe (Clarendon House Publications)
*Reviewed by Fevers of the Mind Reviewer Matthew da Silva* *further edits by David L O’Nan*
The barest of outlines allows the reader to enter through a doorway Adly creates with letters posted like street signs at the corner of each page. You guess at the beginning of each sentence and if you’re lucky you’ll have an image – an idea – by the time, withered like a willow tree by the loss of another few moments, you get to the end of the sentence you’re reading. Adly’s imagery is distilled and her metaphors speak loudly but the sense of each story is masked by a kind of silence we inhabit when we talk to family members.
We’re much more likely to say the truth in conversations with strangers, and most of the people reading Adly’s stories – short and pithy, ripe and ready – are going to be people who are unknown to her. This magic abides even when the ties that bind a person to their past – like the letter writer in ‘Blind Bat’s Song’ or the child protagonist of ‘Bubbles, Mermaids and Broccoli’ – stretch thin with yearning and regret.
The past seems to pursue Adly, so it’s no surprise to find family at the centre of the drama in some of her stories, but all – even the ones set in a New World of hopes and disappointments, dreams and remembering – fade like memories of past wrongs and merge into wishes for future happiness. The border between past and present, like that which lies like the sun between pleasure and pain, is porous and the things that move across the boundary have names that Adly knows. I was very impressed by the strength of her vision. Even when the traces of meaning fragment and blend back into the substrate of consciousness, images and ideas appearing and disappearing like motes of light shining like eidolons drifting ghostly on the wall of a deserted house you visit only at dusk, you sense that Adly knows what she’s doing. Even when you’re not sure of what’s happening, you feel that the author is in control.
Of course because each reader will bring their own memories and habits of mind to the task of reading the control is not total, though the impression I had while reading was of familiarity. It is easy to familiarize yourself to the struggles, surroundings as she writes despite living far from where I am. I get it. The imagery is put out and lets you into her world. I am there in her streets and in her rooms like a promise.
While her experience is always present in these stories I was relieved to find that there is freedom here for the reader to breathe. You’re not hemmed by blocky ideas but, instead, you’re tempted like a tourist outside a café she doesn’t even know is there. A human despite the difficulties is blessed because not only are there usually two words available to mark the same thing, but he or she can escape the clutches of immediacy and travel in imagined realms to a different place where feelings and joys echo in familiar hallways, where the sounds of a different sea crash on the shore, to where it’s still daylight.
This is a special type of excellence. This story is about you. All you need to do is go up the stairs, walk past the mural with its figures and its background of a beach and the sea, and sail away in a dish like a spy.
Info about: Love is Make-Believe is an upcoming flash fiction collection. A story less than a 1000 words. The story “How to tell a story from the heart” was published in Flash Frontier and was included in the Best Microfiction 2020.
The book is titled “Love is Make-Believe” and I’ve created six parts or sections all linked thematically.
First part is narrated by children be it actual children or adults suffering their parents that caused trauma some of it is cultural some is not.
Second part is about mothers and depression and how it effects their view point. Depression is due to lack of support or abandonment issues.
Third part is called “One way Love” women offering love without anything in return. In my culture emotions are of little value, romance is a myth. A woman is required to obey and please and in other cultures women are often judged or sexualized or misunderstood.
Fourth part is about women who suffered the wows of society and culture, it is no longer personal. I tackle issues like female genital mutilation still carried out to this day in Africa, also I talk about freedom of speech, wars, honor killings and more.
In the fifth part I call it “Monsters” it’s about Men and Women who have done monstrous things to each other in the name of love. Themes of Murder and incest are dominant here.
The sixth and last part is called “Magic” where stories also following the same general theme of the book take on a more surreal nature, magical realism, historical fiction and even sci Fi.
I’ve had six best of the net nominations two pushcart nominations and with a winning story in the “Best Microfiction 2020”
This book is a testament of pain and injustice that either I personally went through and that of my ancestors and contemporary sisters. It is the book of my marginalized voice.