Dreams of a Damselfly
Reviewed by Gail Kaufman
With a wonderful blend of humor, sadness, adversity and serendipity, this book captures life lessons about how to rise above fear.
This is a moving story of two lives that intertwine. Paula Hamilton is a 27-year-old high school English teacher who discovers she has a brain tumor. Daniel Swift is a 15-year-old student in her class, bullied by boys and a stone-cold guidance counselor. In a poignant way, Paula and Daniel are each other's saviors.
The author's distinctive style of telling two tales, each in the first person, is compelling. The stories unfold in parallel, from Paula as she copes with her diagnosis and Daniel in the form of a blog. Their individual sagas and how they overlap are captivating.
Paula's bucket list includes travel to Africa and singing in a band. She has the good fortune to fulfill both objectives but not without discord. Through these stories, the author provides a deeper understanding of Paula's core, which contributes to her innate ability to channel tragedy and conflict to discover the truth and enrich the lives of others.
Daniel's plight touches Paula's heart, and she becomes his lifeline. Her life-changing experience in Africa enables her to give him a perspective that helps him move forward. Daniel's achievements deepen Paula's understanding of how teaching is not just what she does but who she is.
There were times when the book seemed a bit long with some background events left unfinished, but the author's handling of difficult subjects is uniquely fascinating. I highly recommend this book as a heartwarming tear-jerker that delivers eloquent messages of death, survival, love, fear and dignity.
Dreams of a Damselfly is available in Kindle and paperback formats on Amazon. Click below to have a look!
Reviewed by Lisbeth Ivies
Driven by the need for the happiness of her memories to return to the present, the main character's journey is both relevant and relatable.
The scariest enemies are often the ones you can’t physically fight or run away from. Even worse is when those enemies largely come from within rather than without. In Joy’s Lament, a young girl is struggling against such an enemy: the negative emotions that have seemingly trapped everyone else around her. Named Joy, her happiest memories are her earliest as a plague of misery, woe, and depression takes root on her world and the universe beyond.
Only 19, she might seem young to take on the task of trying to win the war against her namesake, but two unique abilities seem to make her the only one capable of doing so. The first allows her to pick up memories from the places she visits, memories of the people who’ve come before her. While there is no concrete reason Joy seems to be able to stay fighting when others succumb to the negative emotions, I think it could be linked to this ability, experiencing through other people’s memories the snippets of happiness that came before. The other ability, something the character calls The Source, helps guide her where she needs to be to help, including to a whole different planet from her own.
While reading Joy’s Lament, I kept thinking how timely and relevant the story actually was. Just as people in our world are dealing with periods of forced isolation and depression is nearing an all-time high, what Joy is seeing in the world around her feels very relatable. And since Christmas is a central part of her story, the timing of this release was spot on too. The use of names as plot devices or to inject a little humor into things at the appropriate moments was also very clever.
However, I do think the target audience for this novel is a little younger than myself. The main conflict of the story was just a little too black and white, that a whole universe of people growing sad and distant to the point where they lose their will to live could be solved by the actions of one nineteen-year-old girl traveling to a mysterious planet. This colossal scope was probably my biggest single issue with the story, that the whole universe could be experiencing this problem. Or that the emotions of literally everyone could operate on something like a switch.
The strongest parts of Joy’s Lament are when the conflicts remain internal. With the main character’s abilities, it would have been all too easy for Joy to turn into a dreaded Mary Sue. But that didn’t happen here and is why I ultimately loved the novel. Finding a way to balance the positive and negative, a way to continue even when failure seems easier, is a proverbial mountain we all must climb. I greatly enjoyed rooting for Joy to climb hers.
Joy's Lament is available in Kindle, paperback and audiobook formats on Amazon. Click below to have a look!