‘It was him or me, and I decided – I wanted to live.’
Silent Squall was my first encounter with Alfa’s work. If I were to review the book in a few words, I would cite the journey I embarked upon from page one and the words I have been left with since. Alfa lives within these pages. She broke my heart (Flight), gifted me the parts large enough to piece back together (In the Air) and taught me how to do so (Landing).
In the author’s note, Alfa addresses a question she is often asked: ‘Why do you only write about love?’ She answers with the words – ‘Love trumps everything’ and in Silent Squall, this is the lesson she teaches. We are told a story about how love broke and abused her but we are taught that love can also save us, if we let it.
‘But, she will know her mother had layers that she never peeled back – for fear that her soul would seem chilly when unclothed.’ – Therapy Poems
Alfa opens honestly. It is painful but it is necessary. A few pieces in and her survival is palpable. ‘One day the leaves…’ (pg.24) explores how love changes its face. How hands made for holding can become fists. A smile becomes a snarl. The complexity of love is also captured by lines like ‘I spent most of our years together…trying to find a way out’ and ‘I have slept hungry an entire marriage.’ She opens our eyes, ears and hearts to the abuse she survived – she is honest, never gratuitous. ‘I cannot breathe’ (pg. 72) chilled me to the bone. The ‘angelic voice’ of her daughter kindled a fire in my belly and revealed to me how it feels to want to live, to want someone to survive.
In the Air
‘How to raise sons who respect women:
Never give them the opportunity
to see you disrespect yourself. – Therapy Poems
All of the ‘Therapy Poems’ in this part are outstanding. They continually remind us of the limbo between surviving and living. This is the beginning of recovery. As a result, this part feels muddled, methodically muddled. It is uncomfortable to read as we experience the taste of freedom and how the past is triggered; even when convinced she has run far enough away. Alfa does not try to strike a balance here. Instead, she lays out all her broken pieces and the parts she had learnt to hide.
Here we begin to truly feel those first words – ‘I wanted to live’. There is love, hope and Warrior Princess truth but by no means is it sunshine and rainbows. I adored how armed with metaphors (flowers in particular) her writing isn’t tinged with rose. From beginning to end, she gives us reality not romanticism.
We are often told there is light at the end of the tunnel. Alfa reveals how although this light exists; sometimes it is blinding, sometimes it glimmers gently and sometimes it is a candle guttering in the breeze. All you need to remember is the light still exists and love will lead you to it.
This book made me cry, frown, gasp, hope, laugh and smile. Alfa will remind you how sweet the taste of air is, how loud your heart pumps in your chest and how we are the calm and the storm.