The Flesh Statue By U.L. Harper
(Reviewed at the authors request)
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Plot; Langley, sick of his suburban life and sick of watching the man who raised him wither from the relentlessly ugly clutches of Alzheimer's, moves to Long Beach with the hopes of finding more. What he finds is a group of poets with a message, a message they want to get out.
When Langley moves to Long Beach he instantly finds himself in a new world of poetry and graffiti. A world that is in the throws of destruction and in the need of revolution. Langley is forced to make the decision; does he stay in this new world with its collapsible revolution, or does he attempt to endure a life marred in the memory of his death mother and in the current state of his Grandfather.
The Flesh Statue follows Langley on this search for answers and along the way introduces us to an array of characters from the erractic Cinci who is trying to escape a troubled past, to Bert, a man who is willing to fight and burn for his ideals, to Latrail, a young woman taking on the role which Langley should himself be filling.
My Thoughts; The Flesh Statue is an uncomfortable read, and I do not mean this in a negative way. This is not the type of book which will leave you with warm and cuddly feelings it is the type of book which takes you out of your comfort zone and poses questions, forcing the reader to think. This is the type of book that you want all of your friends to read because you know it will lead to hours of heated discussion and debate.
U.L. Harper has presented us with a book which puts forward many of those questions and issues which we all have to either confront or we have strong opinions of. Such questions and issues as politics, religion, abortion and the most important question posed by this book; what would you do if the person you loved was but a shell of their former selves.
For me the title, The Flesh Statue, holds two meanings. Firstly it represents Langley's Grandfather, a shell of the man he once was, but to me a statue also stands for something just as these characters stand for their beliefs.
Harper is not afraid to show the uglier side of life. This is evident by his descriptions of the plight of Langley's Grandpa, a point in the book where I couldn't stop the flow of tears. Although through the tears I also had a feeling of total disbelief at the actions and reactions of Langley, particularly when referring to his Grandfather as a "thing". At first it is as though Langley has a total disregard for this man but as I read on I came to understand how the pain of such an ordeal can at times be too hard to face and is easier to turn your back on or walk away from.
One of the underlying themes I took alot of entertainment from was the apparent battle of the sexes. The men of this book seemed so immersed in trying to revolutionise their city, their state, their country that they don't realise the small revolution that the women are trying to have in their own homes. Lets take for example Marie and Bert. Bert is really the first character to introduce the idea of revolution to the story with his poetry, "It's going to take some kind of cultural destruction to make things better" (pg38). He is so strongly focused on trying to change Long Beach that he is almost willing to sacrifice his relationship. This is in contrast to Marie whose whole world is that of hers and Bert's. She focuses on their life together and their future and how she can revolutionise their relationship.
One thing that Harper has done really well is to show both sides of the argument. It would be easy, and typical, to just present the ideals of the main characters (Langley, Bert, Cinci) but the reader is introduced to John Doe, a man who is opposite in his opinions on every issue presented by this book, he is religious, he doesn't believe in abortion and he is strongly against the attempts at revolution. This all makes for good balance.
I must also take a moment to comment on the powerful and emotional poetry in The Flesh Statue. This book and these characters are so much about action that the poetry is a great way to focus on the emotion behind those actions.
I think that this book is a great read for anyone, on any side of the fence. It makes you laugh, it makes you cry and, most importantly, it makes you think.