Irene Watson is an important figure in independent publishing and an innovator in creating important services to assist new authors, and I approached her new book as an autobiography of someone I admire. "The Sitting Swing" does not disappoint, and the vivid storytelling description of Irene's childhood and later recovery are a delightful surprise.
The book opens in epic fashion with Irene in action, settling into a 28-day recovery program at a facility called Avalon. The interior monologue that is to narrate the story shines out boldly in the first statement, "It was the damnedest thing they thought I'd fall for it." There are many places in the book where I was struck by a raw statement of honesty in Mrs. Watson's reactions to her world, and this opener sets the stage.
The first chapters relate the reasons Irene has come to Avalon, but the story takes flight with the flashback to Irene's past. Mrs. Watson is a true storyteller and takes the readers in hand to see her family and childhood home in emotional color. The descriptions of the hardships lived by her grandparents and parents are poignant and illuminating, and the honest appraisal gives testimony to the healing recounted in the rest of the book.
There is page-turning brilliance in the scenes Irene gives the reader from her past. The descriptions of the Sitting Swing—so named because it cannot swing, and so cannot cause injury—impart not only the sights and smells of the yard where Irene sat stationary before her mother's window, but the confinement and restriction it represented. A life is served before us, one that holds a full measure of the pain life can bring even a child, but is told in a way that invites the reader to reflect on our own individual yet common struggles.
Mrs. Watson reveals the soul of a writer as she makes an engaging and compelling story out of her journey to recovery. This is the heart of the work, and unusual in a book about recovery as such artfulness is rare and difficult, and yet Irene's skillful expression allows the reader to see our own experiences in hers, not by indicating, not by telling, but by bringing the reader along her path to see for themselves.
There is a division in the book when the narrative returns to the present: after the rich detail and nostalgic tones of the flashback scenes there is a jolt to the present. This is the nature of the book: it entertains and surprises as it teaches. Irene doesn't pull any punches in the final scenes describing the showdowns and breakthroughs at Avalon, but the urgency is fading, the lights are coming up, the resolution is at hand.
We all walk our own path, and Irene doesn't offer prescriptions or pat answers. Reflections and truths discovered, yes, but there is not a moralizing word to be found here. It is a fantastic achievement to put in moving words the story of one's journey and to do it in a way that reaches out to others. The hope it offers is not sugar-coated or facile, it is the quiet testimony of a way to healing. Highly recommended.
John Royce is the author of Eclipsed by Shadow (The Legend of the Great Horse - Book I of III)