Kirkus Review of Burden of Light

THE BURDEN OF LIGHT by Ellia Vierling


A young man struggles with overwhelming impulses and thwarted desires in Vierling’s darkly affecting debut novel.

Arriving in town by bus, Raymond is approached by a man suffering with a kidney stone. Although Raymond doesn’t want to, he assists him and ends up staying at the home of his new friend, Earl, and his wife, Clarissa. The outspoken, principled Earl takes a paternal interest in Raymond, and Clarissa mothers him, calling him “hon.” Raymond finds work at Earl’s former place of employment, an animal rendering plant, even though Earl warns against it, saying “[t]hat place will ruin a man.” Daily, Raymond fights the urge to retch as he deals with the gruesome sights and horrific smells of animal parts being rendered into soap and oil; it’s tough going, but he sticks with it. Eventually, he becomes smitten with a drinking buddy’s cousin, Jenny, but because he lacks polish, he scarcely knows what to do—and his buddy has also sternly warned him to stay away from her. When he finally approaches her, he’s too overwhelmed by her presence to engage in conversation, and as with many things in Raymond’s life, the reality falls decidedly short of the dream. Throughout the novel, the author allows Raymond only a few moments of happiness, as the character’s sometimes-brutal nature (and lack of nurture) often prevents them from coming into being. As in the works of Cormac McCarthy, the dialogue is without quotes, and scene after scene rings true, as each character utters lines in his or her own unique cadence. Raymond is a troubled man, an atavistic throwback caught by his need to be a man but not knowing how to go about it. Without the grace of love, embittered Raymond might have become a true American psycho. Overall, Vierling’s narrative is a stirring reminder of the fathering that’s necessary to ensure a boy’s passage into manhood.

A disturbing, heart-rending account of a young man caught in the abyss between desire and realization.

A slice of America

flagAnybody out there read “Rolling Stone” magazine?  I would imagine at least of a few of you do :)  (a bloody awesome rag indeed!)  Rolling Stone does a whole lot more than talk about music and your favorite bands…it digs into the culture of our country in surprising and pointed ways.

In this month’s issue, there is a highly disturbing article – and a most necessary read – about the state of affairs in this once booming country of ours.  Ours is the “Land of the Free, Home of the Brave…” a country that other countries around the world want to emulate, want to become, want to BE! (oops, is that snark peeking through?).  Yes, ours is a land that shines…and also, that vibrates with a deep and conflicting past, and continues to uphold this less-than-stellar tradition, I’m afraid.  The article in Rolling Stone is called “Where the Tea Party Rules” and it is deftly written by Janet Reitman, with photographs by Geordie Wood.   Straight up: it is challenging to read.  But, eyes wide open people!…it is an important article for All Americans to read, in that it provides a window into the fragmentation/corruption/and insularity that has overtaken the power systems in our country, that were once upon a time, established to offer protection for ALL its citizens – but now seems determined to protect only those who have the power,influence, and/or money, to purchase it.

The slice presented in the article is of Lima, Ohio – a once prosperous industrial city that boomed during the manufacturing explosion of the 1950’s and 60’s…and continued along that trajectory, for the most part, until the recession of 2007. What remains of this city (as an example of the Greater Country) is a shell, a broken and emptied ghost, of its not-long-ago promise: that a person could get a solid education, find a job, raise a family, send their children also to a decent school, get a strong enough education that they too, would be able to “duplicate” this same experience, and keep the “American Dream” humming along.  Unfortunately, for the majority of citizens in Lima, as well as for so many individuals and families in our country, this apparition of the “American Dream” has long since departed the desk top!


Where has it gone?  To the top 1% – who have purchased their way into this position, and unfortunately, maintain the money and power to keep it this way.  The sad truth is this – the era of dignity, honor, and duty, in the United States of America, has gone by the wayside to the highest bidder.

I think the “little guy” – those without pockets stuffed with millions – has always been easier to bat around.  Of course.  But, up until the 1980’s, there were institutions in place, to ensure that the “little guy” could only be batted so far. Those Institutions guarded a vitally important tenet that ultimately, built this country into the land of ‘freedom and prosperity’ – that called people from distant shores with the promise of making a GOOD life here, in the USA.  That tenet was our system of Government – by the people, for the people – and the Regulations that our government instilled to Protect them.  Neither of these exist anymore.  Our government is now bought and paid for by a ridiculously thin slice of wealthy individuals with wickedly deep pockets, thanks to the abhorrent ruling of the Supreme Court Justices: Kennedy, Roberts, Scalia, Thomas, and Alito, in April 2014 with the McCutcheon vs. Federal Election Commission ruling. Never before, in the history of the Supreme Court, has it struck down the federal contribution limit…why? Because somehow, other Supreme Court justices seemed to understand that by doing so, they would open up the highest offices of our country, For Sale, to the highest bidder – which would, in effect, pollute the entire basis of our Democracy.  And that is precisely what we are seeing now.

courtMake no mistake, wealth does not necessarily equate to intelligence, or to knowledge; nor does it equate to leadership, nor does it equate to the greater good for all people.  Indeed, more and more so, wealth seems to equate to this: That Which Is Good for ME.  When the highest offices of our country become items for “purchase” – people like you, and me, often feel like all we can do is sit back and bear witness to the dismantling of our once great country – a country that is all around us, reduced to little more than a whore who spreads its legs for a thick wad of green.  And who buys this whore?  Rich, wealthy, and overwhelmingly, white men.

My question is this: Who are these men to manipulate the lives of millions? Who are these men to say that the earth should not be protected?  Who are these men to say that anyone with the mind, the drive, the dream, to attend college can not go unless they either have a cache of green to support them, or are willing to put themselves into outrageous debt for many years – if not decades, of their lives? Who are these men to say that Florida residents can NOT put solar panels on their own rooftops – in the Sunshine State! on their own private property?  Who are these men to OWN this sky, this ground, this grove of trees, this ocean, this Supreme Court, this Country?  I am telling you – we are living in a “What the Fuck!” moment, if ever there was one.

Separation of Church and State was one of THE defining vertebrae of our spine – Gone.  The annihilation of Roe vs. Wade…by MEN – WTF!  The honor of our Highest Court – Obliterated.  Government as overseer to keep its Citizens from being gouged – not even a whisper on the wind any longer.  I wonder how long it will be before our protected watersheds/parks/land will lay under the scalpel of greed as well?

There is a pervasive sickness, that – like a spoiled child (think Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory – “I want it NOW Daddy!  I want it NOW NOW NOW!”) has been allowed to run rampant, unchecked, and unrestrained, and without the Checks and Balances that used to define our system of governance, I seriously do not know what, or how, or who, might ever be able to turn this ship around.

Perhaps it is time to turn to history – to investigate and explore how other populations were able to topple the regimes that took over control of their bodies, their lives…or, perhaps its simply time to move to Canada.  We need a Jimmy Stewart (aka: Mr. Smith Goes to Washington) more than ever! A valiant hero that will fight the powers that be and demand reform! demand change! Dammit!…but there is no Jimmy Stewart, people – there is only us.  The People. If we could only get it into our thick skulls: That, a People united is a Power unstoppable, and a People divided is a power no more.

How do we Unite?  That’s the trillion dollar Question.  I’d love to hear what you think…


The Signature of All Things

519bxnNZYWL._AA160_Rarely has a book penetrated me so…dare I say, never…as Elizabeth Gilbert‘s exquisite novel – The Signature of All Things.  Over the past two days, my time, my thoughts, my work, my life, my everything (other than my children, and their homework!) was completely and utterly overtaken by this engrossing and brilliant work of art…it overtakes me still, though I reluctantly closed the last pages of this book in the late hours of this morning.  To say how or why this novel delved so deeply into my heart, my spirit, my subconscious, into my very cells perhaps, is a task I will never rise to the occasion of fully explaining to any other soul, other than my own.  For this novel, for me, was much more than a “book” – it was deeply and emphatically, alive! –  so much so, that I could “hear” it, “feel” it, be ever expanded by it and “ignited” by it – and crazy as it sounds, I truly mourned when its life came to an end.  

From the first hours of my reading, and every moment then since – I often found myself in tears…from the Wonder, the Beauty, the Knowledge and Curiosity that is presented in this book, primarily through Alma, the amazing woman of science that charges into life, full steam ahead with her engrossing Commitment to Understanding EVERYTHING, head on, straight on, looking life in the eye, even when it was difficult…painful, even. 

Alma, is wondrous; she is the kind of character that I wish to know in my own life.  Steadfast, strong, brilliantly smart and learned, curious, exceptional in mind, bold, perhaps a tad (or more) selfish, genuine, and, even in the face of fear – ever unafraid.   She is also blunt, and wonderfully direct…perhaps owing to her endearing Dutch nursemaid, Hanneke – or perhaps in a way that the wealthy and educated were always permitted to be.  She had a mind, and she never suffered to use it…nay, perhaps this is too much, for she was a woman in the 1800’s after all, and as such, she did choose to publish her scientific findings not under her full name, but by initial only…so as to stand the chance of being taken seriously in a man’s world.

If you are curious about the world, if you enjoy digging into the minutia of life, peeling back the layers to see what resides there – if the wonders of the heart stir you, and the thrill of exploration sends your head spinning… you must read The Signature of All Things. An entire universe resides in the pages of this novel, in the lives of its characters…and for this, I praise with an exploding heart, the wonders that Elizabeth Gilbert birthed to us all.  If ever in my lifetime I am able to paint so delicately and fine a story and characters such as this in my own writing, I will die a happy woman, and one deeply fulfilled.