March Book Review: “Aurora”

This month I finally had the chance to read a book that has been on my to-be-read list for quite a while: “Aurora,” by Melissa Haggard (née McCowen). “Aurora” is a collection of prose, poetry and an essay that intertwines nature and words, focusing on regrowth and renewal. I will acknowledge that I graduated from the same high school as McCowen, and she is one of the kindest and most hardworking individuals I have ever met. The beauty of her work speaks for itself and I am beyond enthusiastic to read more from her in the future.

“Aurora,” features 61 poems, three short stories, and an essay focusing on Earth Day and environmental issues. Haggard uses her love for the world around her in many of the pieces throughout the book. Haggard’s Earth Day essay opens with an anecdote about growing up and hoping for an oasis while moving across different regions of Texas. This hope slowly led her to discover a passion about environmental issues and activism. Haggard organizes the rest of the essay in two separate sections as a call to action detailing the importance of preserving Earth and explaining how others can get involved. Since the publication of her book, she started a critical conversation about nature and decided to conduct her own environmental studies research.

The prose section of “Aurora,” features the short stories “The Story of Frau Holle,” “Dreaming Shakespeare,” and “We Live in Trees.” The first revisits and rewrites the Brothers Grimm story. “Dreaming Shakespeare” focuses on the protagonist, Aria, who faces great physical pain. Aria is eventually given a prescription that has a side effect of severe hallucinations. The hallucinations lead to a chilling ending after Aria sees famous Shakespeare characters Rosencrantz, Guildenstern, Puck and Hamlet throughout her day. The final short story, “We Live in Trees,” is my favorite from the book. Readers follow a group of men led by Meryl who are captured in a forest while working for Big Rick’s Logging. After waking up, Meryl and the rest of the group encounter a tribe of women who live in the forest. After a hostile interaction, the two groups uncover their similarities and differences with one another.

In the introduction, Haggard crafts poems that encourage readers to sprout above the surface and grow like wildflowers. I loved all of the poems in this section; however, some of my personal favorites included “Renaissance,” “She is a Forest,” “Every Day Is Brand New,” “Devil,” and “Earthly Goddess.” The language in the poem “Tulips and Tangerines” stuck with me long after I had finished reading, especially the line “They ask me about the living / And I remind them that they are.” “She is a Forest” and “Earthly Goddess” enthrall the reader with female empowerment. “Every Day Is Brand New” acknowledges the importance of realizing that every day opens a new opportunity. The poem “Devil” focuses on those who try to silence taboo topics and the negative effects this can have on the victim.

“Aurora,” is a must read. The book can be purchased for $6.99 on Amazon and is well worth the buy. Haggard dedicated so much time and craft into the publication of “Aurora,” and I am interested in reading more of her work in the future.

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