Review of Sandra Arnold’s Soul Etchings

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Niles Reddick is the author of the novel Drifting too far from the Shore, a collection Road Kill Art and Other Oddities, and a novella Lead Me Home. His work has been featured in eleven anthologies/collections and in over two hundred literary magazines all over the world including The Saturday Evening Post, PIF, Forth Magazine, Cheap Pop, Slice of Life, Faircloth Review, With Painted Words, among many others. His new collection Reading the Coffee Grounds was recently released.

 

I first met Sandra Arnold through a Facebook group, and we became friends, reading each other’s stories and never having met in person since we are on different continents. Arnold’s new collection of flash fiction titled Soul Etchings is beautiful. The language is poetic, the stories are warm, and though some of the subject matter can be harsh such as child abuse, domestic issues, and death, including the death of children, Arnold presents us with loving, forgiving, and accepting narrators. In addition, the collection offers a bit of the mysterious and the unknown such as unidentified flying objects or the spirit world, but makes no judgments or assumptions, simply allowing the reader to form his or her own conclusions. The focus in the collection is on the poetic language and the art of telling the stories.

In the story from which the collection gets its title, “Soul Etchings,” the narrator, after watching mysterious lights in the sky says, “…I’ll leave the world with this night’s memory etched on my soul,” and this comment captures the essence of the collection, namely that memories that we perceive as significant impact on us for the rest of our lives. Another story I love that also highlights mystery within human reality is “The Other Sort,” a story where a little girl is a seer of those who are no longer with us. One flash piece “Sea Song” is descriptive of a moment at night that is powerful poetry and emotion tightly crammed into a small piece, and when one reads it, it seems like a bite of food that is so delicious, one simply doesn’t want the experience to end. Arnold writes, “The sky is packed with stars. Fat blobs of light hanging over the sea and sand. I reach up to touch them. I walk into the waves with the child we no longer have and set her adrift on the sea.”

I found myself making notes, being reminded of my own experiences that have yet to be written, and I took in Arnold’s fiction, letting it warm me inside. Sandra Arnold is a talented writer, and readers will be drawn to her fiction, wanting more.

Sandra Arnold is a novelist, short story, flash fiction and non-fiction writer. Her work has been broadcast on national radio, published and anthologized in New Zealand and internationally and has won and been short-listed for several awards. She has a MLitt (High Distinction) and PhD in Creative writing from Central Queensland University, Australia. With poet David Howard she co-founded Takahe Literary Journal and was its fiction editor from 1989 to 1995. She is a guest editor for Flash Frontier, and Meniscus, the literary journal of the Australasian Association of Writing Programs. She lives in rural Canterbury, New Zealand.

Her website is: https://www.sandraarnold.co.nz/

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