Book Review: Kindra M. Austin’s Twelve, by Mariah Voutilainen

Kindra Austin’s Twelve continues where Constant Muses left off, rich and intense.

By Mariah Voutilainen

After having read Constant Muses, I eagerly awaited the release of Kindra Austin’s Twelve.  I expected more of the imagery of Muses, with its cigarette smoke and endless cocktails.  While those common threads are there, Twelve favors the much more potent darkness of decay and memento mori.  In Twelve, Austin further exposes the connection between the corporeal and spiritual that she began to explore in Muses, through an emotional dissection of the year of grieving on her mother’s death.  And I felt it was a grieving ‘on’, not ‘over’:  she rests upon each painful moment of remembrance and exposes it to us fully, unapologetically.  It is that straightforward voice, plainly truthful, that compelled my own visceral response—and while I cannot fully describe in words how I felt, I do know that I was hit hard.  Austin forced me to look on the truth of death and how it can rip, how it can physically fragment those left behind.

Make me a whole person,” she writes in “An Emotionless Affair,” referring to the cracked-open ribs, bleeding hearts, vomit-stained sheets, bile and pus, immolated bones and disembodied flesh of the other poetry in the collection.  No therapy can put together what death has rent.  Still, Austin knows she can find a semblance of whole-ness in the act of writing, even as she despairs the loss of her mother-muse: “Who am I, if not a writer?” she asks rhetorically, in the poem “Your Absence is a Burglar.”  “Mother what am I supposed to do?  I’m so fucking tired of writing about you./But who am I, if not a writer?”

“Anyway, Always,” demonstrates the exorcistic role writing plays in Austin’s processing of death and steps toward healing:

Mother mine, I know your truths; yours are mine,

and I will defend them,

always.

I will make your ghosts and mine scream in terror.

Austin is her mother’s champion, but there is another who champions Austin.  She prefaces her work: “But dark as my days have been, there is one who keeps me tethered to the light…”  There are bright moments among the desperate ones.  These are found in “For My Truest of Loves,” “You Remind Me,” and the nuptial “Wedding Poem” all of which celebrate her own treasured daughter.  On many levels, dark and light, I saw the redemptive qualities of the fierce love between mother and daughter.

This book has overwhelmed me, it has slayed me with its truths.  Those were the thoughts that came to mind after consuming her book.  I don’t use the word “consume” lightly:  I ruminated as I read; her thoughts were nourishment for that part of me that ponders death.  Yet I felt as if my heart had been splayed open:  I didn’t know if I should cry, or just bear witness.  I admired and wondered yet again at Austin’s willingness to reveal herself, her assuredness that her readers would catch those emotions and cradle them.  That we could hold space for them, keep them safe, disperse them or preserve them.

Twelve is available on amazon.com and amazon.co.uk.


Mariah Voutilainen, co-editor at Indie Blu(e), writes poetry and prose about all manner of things at www.reimaginingthemundane.wordpress.com.

Book Review: Kindra M. Austin’s For You, Rowena, by Mariah Voutilainen

Kindra Austin’s For You, Rowena uncovers a mystery about love and relationships, and how loss can come back to haunt you.

By Mariah Voutilainen

Given a choice of literary genres, mystery is never my first to pick up.  Perhaps it is the constant and nagging question in the back of my mind: “How did the author create such a puzzle that I can’t immediately solve?”  The details, perfectly interlocking, lead to an ending that is usually satisfying, but leaves me somehow disappointed with my own inability to catch the culprit before the final chapter, or worse, obsessing about tiny clues in an attempt to solve the crime.  For You, Rowena was a different type of mystery for me:  I didn’t wonder so much at the intricacies of how a crime was planned or carried out; Kindra Austin set the scene and created characters so fascinating and sympathetic that the only question in my mind was “How did it come to this, and how will it end?”  This book goes beyond the machinations of an interesting mystery; it is a stirring exploration of human behavior.

Austin excels at character development through the course of the novella; the titular character, her lovers, and supporting players change very believably, very humanly.  This is especially true of Rowena.  I found her completely unlikeable from first mention; yet as I learned more about her, I grew to understand her attitude of seeming detachment and aloofness, to look beyond the words coming from her mouth and see the revelation of her true character through the actions she takes.

Mara, Lucas and Adrian, Rowena’s friends and lovers, are equally fascinating and surprising in their strange love for a woman whose idiosyncrasies and (at times) warring attitudes simultaneously repel and attract them.  Caught in the gravity of Rowena’s sun, their orbits are elliptical, closer and farther at times, but always revolving around her.  At times, I wished I could enter into the intrigue myself—to step for a moment into Mara’s slippers, or perhaps be a fly on the wall.  Either way, I was equally pulled into Rowena’s circle.

To delve deeper into the novella for this review would require revealing the storyline and its marvelous twists and turns, so I will refrain from spoiling your read.  Austin’s novella, much like her poetry, is full of the imagery of smoky rooms and cocktail kisses, dark evenings and secretive places.  The story of crime was artfully entwined with emotional and romantic loss that touched the deeper spaces of my heart.  Ultimately it left me with a buzz of satisfaction, and the surprise that my detective intuition was not far off.

For You, Rowena, is available on amazon.com and amazon.co.uk.


Mariah Voutilainen, co-editor at Indie Blu(e), writes poetry and prose about all manner of things at www.reimaginingthemundane.wordpress.com.

Candice Daquin reviews Kindra M. Austin’s For You, Rowena

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For you Rowena – Kindra M. Austin

Review by Candice Louisa Daquin

I’ll begin by saying, it’s not easy to write a review of a book that you don’t want anyone to know the twists and turns of, because then what do you write about? With this novel I feel almost possessive, usually when you read a novel you really want others to read, you share what you most liked about it, but with a suspenseful and taut thriller that’s incredibly hard to achieve without giving key ingredients away. The reason this would be so devastating is that this novel builds brick by brick and so to read it out of sequence or know anything of what is to come, would spoil the crescendo.

Instead let’s talk about what I can make mention of without any spoilers. If you haven’t read a novel or poem by Kindra Austin then you may not know she’s a woman who absolutely doesn’t hold her punches. Think back 100 years, women couldn’t and wouldn’t do that, but even now, sometimes there is an apologetic politeness or restraint in how women describe the world. When you read someone who is willing to just BE on the page, then you know you have found the truth.

What is truth in fiction? Truth is reading the novel breathlessly and then when you put it down finished, you have emptiness, a feeling of wanting to go back, find the characters again, and inhabit them once more. Truth is relating so deeply to the carved souls of those people written on a page, that they become hyperreal to you. Just like Cathy and Heathcliff were to their generation of readers, we’ve moved on and we can use profanity and be honest about our frustrations as women; we can talk about sex and anger and rage and emotion and do so at a deeper level than we could when we were censored.

Women writers were really censored? You bet they were. And those who did speak truths did so through oblique metaphor rather than carnage on a page. Male writers however had many years of spilling it before women could join the fray and as such, they established themselves as the first of their generation to really ‘tell it like it is’ and women were usually not even part of the conversation. I’m not men-bashing by stating this, but women labored under a longer societal pressure to conform and behave and when they were freed, well fiction like this was born.

Are we talking Capote wearing a dress? By no means. A woman’s truth may be as visceral but it’s entirely different. The emotional landscape is vivid in an intensely feminine way, positively reflective, it goes deeper. The smut and sordidness of life may be equally explained but where a woman can be often two dimensional in male authors work, a woman can explode and show all her layers when a woman writes her.

Lately I’ve been fortunate enough to read some excellent male authors who did sterling jobs of creating female characters that I as a woman could relate to, but this is the first novel I’ve read in some time where I literally crawled beneath the skin of the two female lead characters. If I look up now, I may see them sitting at the table with me, I will smell them as I leave the room, and hear them laughing. They are so uncannily present I believe, it would be challenging for a man to write them with that much alacrity. Just as I could not write a man as well as some of the male writers I know. Does that limit the female and male author to their respective genders? Absolutely not. It simply gives a woman an opportunity to present female characters so fleshed out and present that its astonishing, in a world where male authors are still the dominant force (especially in the thriller genre).

Speaking of genres, I expected this novel to be a thriller of sorts, a psychological mystery. But it really defies any labeling in part because it is wickedly original and flies in the face of being nailed down as one thing or another. I read some female written gothic fiction once that almost reminded me a little, but still didn’t have its edge. At once disturbing, and familiar, you are not sure whether you want to run or continue to read, but you end up reading because of course you do, that’s inevitable. You’re a thing possessed.

I start a lot of novels and put them down, by the first fifty pages I am bored and don’t care what happens to the characters. So often that heady MFA format and predictable collection of characters (the genius who is dysfunctional, the bad-ass girl who happens to be gorgeous) are too routine. When reviewing a book you obviously can’t put it down even if it bores you so it’s always a fear reading a book that it may end up to be insufferable. This wouldn’t be the case here; if I had every novel ever published to read, I’d still want to read For you Rowena. Maybe the simplest way of reviewing this book is to tell you why.

For you Rowena is among other things, a love story, the kind you won’t be expecting and haven’t yet experienced. It has elements that all of us who have ever been caught emotionally in more than one allegiance will understand. In that, it is a very classic tale like Anna Karenina because we, all of us are suckers for love stories with tragic and painful experiences that we can relate to our own love histories, and those that go beyond anything we have experienced we live vicariously with, because ultimately, would anyone be as interested in reading a love story that has no tribulation and only happiness? Alas we are creatures of disturbance and as such, we demand emotional upheaval and not just calm waters. I’m not sure why that is, but an author worth her salt will need to ‘bring it’ and Austin brings it plenty. Hell, she sets it on fire and then invites you to dine on the embers.

Aside that beckoning lure, For you Rowena is also a masterful psychological expose of what makes us humans tick, emotionally. Something few of us really understand without referencing other experiences and looking back in hindsight. Austin gets the emotional jungle we live in, what we crave and we destroy and how we hurt those we love and we do things that make no sense but at the time they are what sustain us. Austin presents us with people we can peer into and discover things about ourselves, sometimes disquietingly. Her characters are shockingly realistic, at the same time there is a fantasy overlaying that and a mystical beauty to Austin’s descriptions of the world about her, which creates a deft juxtaposition between narration, description and dialogue.

Immediately after finishing, my first thought was how visual For you Rowena was. I could literally SEE the scenes and the characters as if they existed on film. It takes a lot to paint so vividly the entirety of a story, not just a realistic dialogue but the full fleshing of person’s you’ve created and then manipulate those creations into coaxing the reader into a sympathetic lasting relationship. Often times you can walk away from a character, you can say ‘I really don’t care what happens’ but that’s impossible here. It is equally impossible NOT to relate to their respective trajectories and the arc the story takes, you are sucked in and kept there, holding your breath until the end.

It would do no good to quote from For you Rowena because everything is within a context and doesn’t survive on its own. That is the intensity of the write, and to say this is simply about love or relationships or murder or desperation or frustration would in no way reveal the heart of this novel. As with any well written novel that stands the test of time, it is the relationship formed with the central characters, our sympathies, anger, and emotional investment that define our impression of the novel as a whole. Does it stand out in a literary sense? I believe it does, because Austin knows the nuance of novel writing requires that fine balance of character versus scene versus dialogue and she gracefully navigates the reader through a very intense hate/love storyline without once losing us.

On a personal note, any of us who have loved passionately and been unsure of our decisions can really sink our teeth into this tale, as Austin presents the quixotic ficklety of human nature, its treacheries, its alliances, and ultimately, its surfaces and depths. I wrote four pages of notes as I read, but I used nothing of them in my review, because they were more my impressions formed from the gut-punch of this book than something I could usefully employ. The ruin and recovery of people is written in the same intoxicating quality as I would expect to find in any memorable novel, adding only a modern flourish. Indeed there is even symbolism, redolent in the significance of broken things, and small observations that speak of loss.

Will it be a novel for everyone? I’m sure some will find the ugly nature of passion disquieting, but more likely there is something missing in all of us that we can discover in For you Rowena. If you have ever had a terrible ache, or shame, and not known how to articulate it, or understood yourself, what led up to its creation, this novel will explain those attachments, as it will bring you right to the edge of understanding how someone can kill. The horror of that and its shocking banality is vividly captured by a writer who can wield a psychological intuitiveness within her characters that makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up.

Perhaps when you have read this you will see why I cannot speak at length about those characters and that story, just as we cannot casually open Pandora’s box. A novel that bewitches us will invariably defy breaking into its composite pieces, it works as if by magic, though the skill required to make those pieces harmonize and fit together is invisibly sewn into every page.

Plainly put, I loved reading this novel. It created in me such an admiration for its authoress and a real fired up passion to find more books that gave me that bequeathed thrill. I found nothing predictable about it, and everything original. For you Rowena literally grabbed me by the throat and held me until the reckoning, and what a reckoning it was.

 

For You, Rowena (release date 31 August)

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What lines would you cross for the one you love?

Rowena is a Helen of Today, dangerously coveted; she’s a paradoxical woman searching for self-certitude through pleasures of the flesh. Only one amongst her myriad of lovers can save Rowena from herself.

This is a story of human connection and its devastating power.


In three days, I release my third book, a novella titled, For You, Rowena. I’m honored to announce that Allane Sinclair has yet again created a cover that encompasses a universe I’ve imagined and put to paper. I couldn’t ask for a better collaborator than Allane. As always, I hope my words serve justice to the emotions that scream from her artwork. Allane Sinclair is the real deal, folks. She pours every bit of her soul into her work, and it shows.

For You, Rowena, at its core, is about self-preservation, true love, and the roads a person might travel to claim that love as their own, despite the obstacles; it’s about abusive relationships, self-exploration, redemption, and revenge.

For You, Rowena is not written in the narrative style of Magpie in August. Though two different animals, I hope that those who’ve read Magpie will recognize both the strengths and vulnerabilities I’ve instilled into the main women characters of Rowena.

For You, Rowena is scheduled for release on 31 August, 2018 in paperback and Kindle format via Amazon.

Kristiana Reed Reviews Magpie in August, by Kindra M. Austin

Austin stuns with her debut novel, Magpie in August. A lovingly written narrative about living, dying and the purgatory in between.

I’ve been an admirer and reader of Austin’s poetry since late 2016, a little while after she started poemsandparagraphs. Austin always writes honestly with the razor-sharp ability to steal the breath from my lungs and make me punch the air with my fist. However, I did not know what to expect with Magpie in August, except it grew out of her relationship with her late mother (as revealed in her interview with Sudden Denouement founder, Jasper Kerkau).

Within the first few pages, Magpie, our protagonist, was sketched into my mind in vivid magenta, violet, and deep charcoal. Magpie’s love for Peter was palpable from the first time he called her ‘Beautiful’ as if it was her ‘God given name’. Her mother, Lynette, is an angel and demon wrapped up in one and Renny, Magpie’s reader and listener, a friend and foe. Austin leads us to believe we know everything there is to know about these people. Magpie can be cruel. Lynette is fickle and flippant. Peter is a watchful guardian and Renny is silent.

But, they are people, not characters and so our omniscient facade soon falls away. In every chapter, Austin gifts us a new angle, new mirror and new prism to refract everything we knew through. In fact, it is only Peter, quite fittingly, who remains the same.

Austin gave me a safe space to reflect on my own relationships, to draw parallels and thank my blessings. Her exploration of grief and loss is beautiful. A stunning, heart-wrenching tribute to the human condition and its difficulty to love unconditionally, when love, at the end of it all, is what we do best. Every person receives redemption of some form – Magpie, Lynette, Wren, Dalton (Magpie’s father) and even Jessica Wenzel.

Austin’s unwavering guidance into the darkness of rock bottom, Lake Huron and even the supernatural was superb. Authors like Cecelia Ahern (If You Could See Me Now), F. Scott Fitzgerald (The Great Gatsby) and Douglas Kennedy (The Woman in the Fifth) came to mind as Austin matched their ability to write people not caricatures and take them to places we didn’t expect; never once causing the reader to doubt their ability in ensuring it all makes sense in the end.

Magpie in August ends just as it should. The Magpie who wakes up from a dreamy slumber in chapter 1 is the Magpie embracing all the earth and sky have to offer in the final chapter. Austin brings us full circle; allowing us to reap the rewards of a woman saving herself.

Magpie leaves us believing she deserves to breathe, love and wait for her ‘beloved stars to awaken silvery blue in an inky sky.’

Magpie in August is available at Amazon.com


Kristiana Reed daydreams, people watches in coffee shops, teaches English and writes. She is a curator on Blood into Ink, a collective member of The Whisper and the Roar and blogs at My Screaming Twenties. She is 24 and is enjoying the journey which is finding her voice.

Book Review: Kindra M. Austin’s Constant Muses, by Mariah Voutilainen

Kindra M. Austin’s Constant Muses is a eulogy, a message of comfort and a warrior cry

By:  Mariah Voutilainen

Upon opening Kindra M. Austin’s Constant Muses, I was immediately taken with the  noir-y feel of her poetry.  As Austin’s opening piece suggests, it is “eternally October” in the world that she paints with her rich verse.  Skies are heavy with the weight of autumnal storms, the air thick with cigarettes, tongues dipped in bittersweet alcohol.  Within this October specters lurk: female warriors, a mother with many faces, preserved memories.  It is a séance in which the past is called up to hold hands with the present.

Austin’s verse is brimming with clever language that indicates her command of poetic device as well as quirky turns of phrase.  In some poems the voices conversate; they speak truth through their easy-going innits, sammiches and lookits. In others, o’ers, ‘rounds, ‘tils and romantic description reflect a more formal poetic language.  Throughout, she uses rhythmic and aurally pleasing vocabulary liberally.  This facility with words is a talent that allows Austin to capture her various moods beautifully, and in a manner that can be comforting, melancholy, or disquieting.

The macabre featured in many of her poems shocked me momentarily, but then I came to appreciate the references to blood and teeth (“Regretful Revenge”), viscera bloated with memories (“Bellyful”), the consumption of physical bodies to hold on to the spirits within them (“Garden”), as part of a bigger message of the corporeal tie to the internal and spiritual.  In contrast to that graphic imagery, exasperation predictably oozes from her poems critiquing society; in them she calmly eviscerates the hypocrisy she observes (“Revolution” and “It’s Awful, Isn’t it?”).

One of my favorite poems in the collection is “I Need New Cleaning Supplies.”  Within this short piece I found an exquisite sadness and frustration that is echoed throughout the book:

I sweep you away with my broom, and
wipe the walls clean with bleach.
But recollection
invites re-collection.
You are the dust collected in my corridors.

Anchoring threads are beautifully woven through the collection:  Gin and tonics, menthol ciggies, mothers and daughters.  October and 1987 also appear several times; I wished I could send Austin a note, asking about their importance.  And then I read the prose, discovering that it might have been worthwhile to begin with the memoirs and diary, which shed light on the significance of alcohol and cigarettes, both references to and constant reminders of her mother.  She follows personal memoir with flash fiction; the former details her struggle with a life-changing decision about motherhood, while the latter pulls us into a world of black humor, revenge fantasies and suicide-inducing depression.

The final section of the book, a diary of the month following Austin’s mother’s death, takes us on her journey of mourning.  She is in conversation with her mother throughout, recounting even the smallest details of the funeral preparation with irony: “Funny, I can imagine having a conversation with you, Mom, about the need for funeral luncheon supply stores.  You always did get my humor, and I can hear you laughing at my ranting.”  Austin’s honest delivery and willingness to reveal her complex feelings, from distress and guilt to love and forgiveness, is generous and brave.  It is this bravery and generosity that led me to re-read this book several times, peeling back layers to reveal the sources of such wonderfully emotional writing.

Constant Muses is available for purchase on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk, in paperback and Kindle formats.


Mariah Voutilainen is an aspiring American writer who waxes mostly poetic in Southern Finland.  A former teacher and current stay-at-home-parent, she enjoys reading sci-fi/fantasy, flash fiction, and poetry of the medium-dark and romantic varieties.  Daily ruminations on all manner of things can be found on her blog, (re)imagining the mundane.

 

Indie Blu(e) Welcomes Kindra M. Austin

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Kindra M. Austin is an indie author from Chesaning, Michigan, USA. Her debut novel, “Magpie in August” was published in April, 2017, and her book of poems of prose, “Constant Muses” followed in December. Other publications include several poems featured on SpillWords, and an essay advocating for LGBTQ rights, printed in the Mansfield Pride magazine. She is currently working on a novella, and a second collection of poetry and prose.

Austin has been writing for over twenty years. In 2008, she began blogging under different pseudonyms while briefly moonlighting as a writer/editor/internet radio personality. She’s the founder of Poems & Paragraphs, a founding member of Indie Blu(e), and a writer/managing editor at the Sudden Denouement Literary Collective, including Blood Into Ink, and Whisper and the Roar.


Published Works

(Available on Amazon.)

 

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Magpie in August, set in the thumb region of Michigan, is the narrative of Magpie Carey, an acerbic young woman on a soul searching journey with her alcoholic mother in tow. The driving force of my novel is grief, and the healing of emotional wounds through the act of forgiveness; it’s about the fragile relationship between a mother and daughter, death, and learning how to live after experiencing such great heartbreak.

Magpie and her little sister, Renny (Wren), share a birthday in August. This August marks the eighth anniversary of Renny’s drowning in Lake Huron, at the age of ten. Since the tragedy, Magpie spends every one of her birthdays in Tawas with her mother, Lynette. Magpie despises the killer lake; she only goes for Lynette’s sake.

This trip in particular is the most difficult Magpie has yet to face, as she must culminate her strength in order to fulfill a promise sorely made, and at last confront those who haunt her—both living, and dead.

©Kindra M. Austin/Cover Art by Allane Sinclair


 

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Constant Muses is a collection of poems and prose dedicated to Austin’s inspirations, most notably, her late mother.

“We served enormous club sammiches made on freshly baked French bread yesterday at your memorial luncheon. The deli at your favorite grocery store had prepared the tasty beauties, and I know you would have been impressed. I cut the sammiches with great precision, like you would have done, providing equally sized portions. Seriously, Mom. I was hyper-focused. Because putting all of my attention into minute details that no one else would have given one good goddamn about, was far easier than watching our family and friends walk through the doors with cards, and pathetically arranged faces.”

©Kindra M. Austin/Cover Art by Allane Sinclair