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Book Review: The Most Secret Window by Natalie Vanderbilt

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When you pick up The Most Secret Window you must be prepared for some of the most beautiful as well as brutal words you have seen in print. This poetry truly is a weapon. These words will pierce your soul, your bloody beating heart, and be forever imprinted on your mind.

In the introduction Robert McDowell, the editor of Poetry After Modernism and Cowboy Poetry Matters, and founding publisher of Story Line Press, describes The Most Secret Widow as a ‘tour de force’ and goes on to say "I first encountered this remarkable project in a workshop at the Taos Writers Conference and quickly realized that I was reading something out of the ordinary. Its American precursors are Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Edwin Arlington Robinson, the contemporary epics of George Keithley, Brenda Marie Osbey, Fredrick Pollack, and David Mason, and the Irish dramas of W.B. Yeats."

Grayson is a shipping tycoon in San Francisco in the middle of a battle with his arch enemy Selby. What is frightening is that his brutality simply leaps off the page at you. But the contrast between Grayson and Selby is perfect. Grayson isn’t a faultless man. He keeps a mistress, Catharine, out of habit, not love, while professing love for a girl who he has only seen in his dreams, Lara.

At one point Grayson leaves San Francisco to go to Maine, the place where he believes Lara lives. But within an arms' reach of her, Grayson lets his friend and business partner Luke convince him that his mind is going soft. Lara isn’t real and Grayson should come home to deal with business. But Grayson, though he tries, cannot forget Lara so easily.

The story of a love that crosses time and space, breaking down all the barriers that we keep up against the outside world is truly wonderful and well written. What I loved the best though were the sections of the poetry that has nothing to do with the love shared by Grayson and Lara. I feel that anyone can write a love poem to varying degrees of success. Though the whole book was beautiful, and Natalie Vanderbilt was more than just successful, the small views of San Francisco and Maine are what stand out to me.

    Horses of summer days, champagne and new Monets,
    Men who sit in grand libraries and dream;
    Silver and china glass, money and going fast,
    San Francisco struck with the melt of moonbeams.
    Young men adjust their ties and practice midnight lies
    As the old ones sit with their pipes and dream.
    Ladies trade parasols for lace and velvet walls,
    While diamonds lay against their skin and gleam.
    Carriages come and go, dinner after the show,
    While the old ones pour their liquor and dream
    Before the dewdrops call, a teardrop falls,
    For no reason that anyone can see.
    What was it all, that made them ten feet tall?
    They were happiest in the fight, before they’d won it all.

    —Chapter 29, section I, page 168

Natalie Vanderbilt is a talent that I will go out of my way to search for in the future and I will not soon forget The Most Secret Window.

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About Katie T. Buglet

  • for: mwesigwa samiel

    Thank you for your beautiful words.


  • mwesigwa samiel

    Just like the poet distingusihes between two sates, its only just that Natalie gets acclaimed for her works. I think she has leaped from being human to being a godess in the making. Bravo . See am a passionate person but hardly do i read a book and it feels me with hate and love at the same time.
    Bing Ugandan we do not get much exposure to such lyrical settings, so we just raed whatever is thrown at us most of the time.
    But i have made it much my religion to keep my ears and eyes open and Natalie exceeds expectations