Wither and Bloom, an anthology by Twenty Hills Publishing, released in January of this year. This collection of flash fiction, short stories, and poetry explores what love is at its core.
The words within each included piece delve into what it feels like to fall in love; to desperately cling to the hope of reviving a fading love that was once blindingly vivid; to be washed anew as love breathes life into once drowning lungs; to stand against hardships with steadfast surety knowing your love will endure; to watch love shift and evolve into something young and budding to something eternal and blooming….
My Thoughts on Wither and Bloom
Oh my heart! My heart has been broken yet mended by the words within these pages. Prior to the anthology’s release, I had read some of the stories. However, I just read the hardback edition in its entirety earlier this month. And, I honestly don’t know why I waited so long to dive into this exploration of love!
The Blessing Love Is
While reading, I cried more than once. But what I love about this collection is that the tears I shed were healing. I rejoiced with the fictional cast of characters while also recognizing the love and the choices surrounding love within my own life. And, y’all, I feel so blessed.
I am, in a lot of ways, living the life I spent literal years praying for. My life isn’t perfect. Nobody’s life is perfect. But my life abounds with love. I have the steadfast love of my husband, the supporting love of my family, the encouraging love of friends, and the unconditional love from my Savior, Jesus Christ. And there is no convincing me that the abounding love in my life is not a blessing. [Check out this insightful sermon on the meaning of blessings here.]
My Favorite Pieces in Wither and Bloom
There are SO many wonderful pieces in the anthology. In fact, I can full-heartedly say there was something I enjoyed about EVERY piece. Which doesn’t happen regularly when I read anthologies.
Wither and Bloom has four sections that focus on different aspects/types of love. But, even within the four classifications, it is clear that love is a choice which is the umbrella theme of the collection. In life, sometimes the choices surrounding love feel effortless while other times it feels like trudging through deep, sticky mud. But all times, the choice to love is worth it.
One of my favorite authors included in Wither and Bloom is without a doubt Cassandra Hamm. Her ability to pack so much emotion in such a small package never ceases to astound me. Her piece “Eliza” completely encapsulated me, and I desperately need more of Lisbeth and Norm. Additionally, Cassandra’s numerous pieces featuring Wynstann and Gemma are so beautiful. Each one by itself demonstrates the power of love. But all together, they work to show how love, true love, has a transformative affect.
Part One Favorites
Mary E. Dipple’s “Home” is reminiscent of Francine River’s writing, reminding us all that we can return home and embrace the love waiting for us with open arms, always.
AJ Skelly’s “Chances and Choices” beautifully illustrates that the choices we make impact our lives beyond what limited foresight can truly know, even at a tender age. How many of us loved and lost, or never knew a love at all or have only known one love and that’s all we ever needed, because of choices made in youth?
Katie Fitzgerald’s “Drive Me Home” sweetly shows that when you love someone you are willing to do things you wouldn’t normally do. When you love someone you do things because you love seeing the person you love experience things they love.
“Storm of Betrayal” by Crystal D. Grant reminds me of the old song, “I’m Going to Love You Through It.”
“Sheep, Shows, and Shrews” by Hannah Carter and Anne J. Hill reminds me the importance of extending love when we can even if we deem it inconvenient. We should help others and love others any chance we get. Further, Hill’s “But, Our End” reminds us that active listening and pursued communication are necessary acts to keep choosing love.
Part Two Favorites
Megan Dill’s “Post-It Notes” reminds us that the little things matter.
Mary Agnes Ratelle’s “O Dayspring” should be a classic to share in the holiday season alongside the well-known O. Henry’s “The Gift of the Magi.”
“Mud Prints” by Kristen Bazen teaches the importance of extending grace and forgiveness and pouring into your spouse even when you feel empty because bitterness has no place in a healthy relationship; they will fill you back up in return.
Part Three Favorites
Rachel Lawrence’s “The End” had me staring across the room at my husband knowing within the inner fiber of my very being that we one day will look back knowing what we had in the life we built together was so beautiful, so meaningful that we would take that leap all over again with one another if given the chance.
Nobel Shut Chan’s “Memory Lane,” with Nicholas Sparks’ vibes, had me weeping. I pulled myself together just for Hailey Huntington’s “Love Remembers” to reopen the floodgates.
Part Four Favorites
And, though I have read “A Papa for Nova” by Hannah Carter before, the story struck a different chord. I will admit that the tears flowed freely as my heart swelled at the heartwarming piece during this re-read.
The stories, with love woven within each thread, are are-inspiring. Each sentence, together creates a tapestry reminding every reader that real love is a choice; real love is something we all deserve to be given freely; and real love is something we should want to give as well.
In my youth, I would have been most drawn to the “falling” category. But in my current stage, “enduring” and “abiding” most resonated with me. I believe wholeheartedly, this collection can be enjoyed by many age groups. Though this collection was put together with an adult reader in mind, young adult audiences can enjoy it as well. Please be aware there are some dealings with mature/heavy topics such as abuse, neglect, death, alcoholism, etc.
Any fan of romance and love in general will enjoy this anthology. There are multiple genres including speculative fiction sprinkled throughout, but contemporary fiction is the most seen within this anthology.
In transparency, I do have a poem, “The Truth About Love,” included within the hardback edition. But the inclusion of my poem or not, this is a collection every romantic should add to their library. We don’t need a special occasion to be reminded that love is real, powerful, and obtainable. So, don’t wait for Valentine’s Day or an anniversary to read this…your heart will thank you.
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