“Her life comes out of her lips…” A Review of “What She Was Saying” by Marjorie Maddox

I am a self-professed lover of words. People who can turn a loose collection of adjectives, nouns, verbs, adverbs, and some well-placed punctuation into lusciously stunning poetry and prose are artists. No question about it.

Marjorie Maddox’s What She Was Saying is no exception.

An anthology of Maddox’s works, What She Was Saying explores the deep pain, longing, and at times beautiful struggle for life through vignettes and short stories. No word is wasted and there are no throwaway phrases.

Her style is incredibly descriptive, but not in a cumbersome sort of way. Details and qualifiers give breath to her characters and color to the spaces and places they inhabit. Her writing has a certain charm about it; one can easily develop empathy and become immersed in the short stories. 

Her whimsical style seems paradoxical to the hefty subject matter she presents, and yet it works incredibly well (this is a good time to point out that there are more mature themes in this book such as molestation that, while treated tactfully, might make it a better choice for adults). While at times painful to process, Maddox’s juxtaposition of every-day occurrences and deep, often dark struggle brings realism and honesty to the places from which we often run.

“This wasn’t a job I wanted, but it’s as good a place as any. It isn’t where I was before. Here I can delete things that aren’t important, things that aren’t rugs under someone’s feet. Here a question mark has never seen How will I live? or Where will I go? And therefore is only a word, a transition without plans.

I think of the way children cry when you’re leaving, in gasps, trying to breathe in the last of you. Then I think how much it can hurt to breathe, the weight on your chest, and how all of this has nothing to do with now or here or with people
I barely know within arm’s reach day after day.”
– Excerpt from “Rough Drafts”

Maddox’s exploration of depression, longing, grief, relationships, woundedness, and regret are stunning- as stunning as they can be anyway. These stories do what good stories do, they promote empathy and understanding, which is something we could all use more of. 

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