Show Her a Flower, a Bird, a Shadow

Peg Alford Pursell is one of the writers whose work I’ve been following for some years, having met her when she moved to the Bay Area and became a regular, for a time, at the San Francisco Writers Workshop. It’s a particular pleasure to hold in my hands a book that I feel I already know intimately, from having seen some of the stories in drafts, from knowing the author’s aesthetic and using that as a jumping off point into the reading. my-book-cover-in-this-size-2_2_0

But what if the book proves to be too familiar, too well-known, its movements too predictable? Will the writer still surprise, like a partner after many years of marriage? The risk is high, and the reward — oh the reward. Being allowed into the inner world of another human being, being encouraged to examine the corridors of her heart, laid out in all of their complexity, the dizzying sensation of falling into the words as into a looking glass.

Show Her a Flower, a Bird, a Shadow delivers all that. I’m about halfway through. Looking at its cover, I thought of describing it as baroque for a kind of exuberance in the detail of the bird and the petals. Such a perfect cover to this book, where the sparseness of language coexists with sudden proliferation, of streamlined sentences opening unexpectedly into luxurious, and soaring, flourishes.