4 out of 4 stars
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The experience of reading the book Cloud of Expectation by Mike Westphal was quite a unique one to say the least. It is the first book in what looks to be a series of books on the topic of life in America that the author has plans to write. With this offering, Mr. Westphal gives us his reminiscences of growing up in the South back in what many would consider a more innocent time. He definitely uses an interesting twist to make this book much more than just a straight memoir. As the author himself puts it, the book is:
“...half prose and half something else that people call 'poetry', a word i loathe and detest, because it has been ruined by its current practitioners, who are too solipsistic or incomprehensible...”
This is what created the intriguing atmosphere I felt myself in as I read through this volume.
The overall feel of the book is more like that of a novel rather than that of the nonfiction book that it actually is. Mr. Westphal was almost immediately able to engage me from the onset and draw me into his prose relating his thoughts and experiences as though I was a participant right along with him. It truly was able to make me feel as though I was involved in the reminiscing rather than just reading along with the author's own memories. I have had this happen quite a few times when watching a good movie, but I have found it often rare when it comes to the written word.
The book could never truly be mistaken for straight fiction however because of the many shorter form poems that the author has throughout the entirety of the book. Oddly enough, these still did not break the atmosphere of a great story being told. I suppose this is likely from the works still bringing forth experiences that most readers will be familiar with and the author relaying them in a very visual manner. Mr. Westphal takes us through the happenings around the neighborhood, the reality of having to move, finding that wonder in the mystery of something being different about that certain girl, and even the admiration of heroes and icons in these vignettes.
I had some subtle hesitation initially that I might not fully enjoy this book as much as I might with the unique format the author presented for consumption. The poetry mix could have very well distracted and detracted from the overall tenor of what the author was going for in writing the book. However, my fears were speedily allayed and the prose/poetry mix in actuality became rather a strong point of the entire book. I also really liked how the author did such a great job of conveying his experiences no matter the format of his writings. His style turned a good book into an excellent one.
Besides a few coarse words used at times there was not really any significant thing that I can say I did not like about this book.
Overall, I rate this book 4 out of 4 stars. It was a complete treat to read through such an excellently constructed book that flowed so smoothly from page to page. It is an entirely engrossing experience that I would recommend for just about anybody, especially those who love to read or watch stories about the golden years of yore. I do not think that any will find themselves disappointed when they finish this book.
cloud of expectation
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