It's not often this writer is left speechless, but Julie Elizabeth Powell, take a bow. Your book Gone has achieved that for me.
When I first picked up Gone and glanced at it, I figured it would be a tough, angst-ridden look at the pain and suffering of a parent whose child has suffered a serious health issue that has left her in an almost vegetative state. I was fine with that as I learn so much from other people's memoirs and the ways in which they cope with the vicissitudes life sometimes can throw their way.
I couldn't have been more wrong. What Gone is, is a delve inside the imagination of one woman's view of what the afterlife might be. Although this story was motivated by the author's own experiences with her daughter, who suffered such a fate, it was an attempt to view her experiences through a different prism, from a much more positive perspective.
How to describe the story? For me, this wild ride inside Powell's imagination was a cross between Alice in Wonderland, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and one of Robin Williams' lesser known films, What Dreams May Come, which also explored the afterlife.
The adventures the main character Charley undertakes in this vision of the afterlife are surreal and fantastical and yet there are so many lessons, homilies, morals and thoughts about life that each incredible encounter brings us. I particularly enjoyed the references to the power of the mind and thoughts, which aligned very much with my own perceptions and rules for living. Charley gets to experience so many things that the rest of us only dream of and in this quest is the answer to the two burning issues in her life; Why? and Guilt. Why did this horrible thing happen to her and her daughter? Also, she needs to confront the overwhelming sense of guilt she feels over her inability to care for her damaged daughter and her desires to end it all for her and take away the problem and the pain.
I have no doubt the telling of this story was incredibly cathartic for the author and allowed her to address these same issues in her own mind.
As you may have guessed by now, I was in awe of the author's imagination, her ability to weave words and the incredible story in general. I have read some amazing books by some incredible authors over the last few years, but this sits right up there with the very best.
I have now begun a fictional story by this same author and am enjoying that equally.
In my mind, Julie Elizabeth Powell is an author to follow and to watch. Five plus stars for this surreal fantasy, Gone. Great stuff.