BOOK REVIEW: When the Skeleton Escaped

The front cover of the anthology.

AUTHOR: Lawrence Mwongela

CONTACTS:, +254 706 311 140

PRICE:  Ksh. 650

GENRE: Poetry

REVIEWER: Benvictor Makau

This anthology is mainly centered on how life proves multifaceted from its inauguration all the way to its end. It merrily journeys the reader through many life lessons, each swiftly driving us into the other with a heart-warming lucidity.

The book’s seventy-four interrelated pieces are closely woven and presented in its sevenfold chaptering, making it an easy-to-follow.

The book’s elementary pages host the wistful sentiments from the persona’s Old Owl (probably an aged, witty grandparent advising a youngling), who starts by calling us out of life’s fruitless comfort zone.

In a metaphoric carriage, the anthologist underscores the need to hold fast to what we have, flee the temptation of primitive accumulation and embrace open-heartedness.

A scintillating rhyme sinks the reader deeper into the second chapter, where the poem slowly opens our eyes to the need to be daring while seeking change.

It goes on to prompt our imagination into the uncertainty of life, exhorting us to make every single day count because:

The night holds a mystery.

Could be joy or misery.…

Today might be a calm haven:

Tomorrow a turbulent ocean. (From: My Child, make it count)

It’s all mind-blowing how this book makes unknown truths and realities accessible to the reader. The calculated use of anaphora makes the realities sticky.

Unpredictably, chapter two expires through a beautiful verse of a (grand)parent’s fearful imagination of a grownup (girl) child and the possible dangers of growing up; disobedience, accustoming to dark ways, and other uncertainties children embrace in their growth.

Aren’t these the ‘what-ifs’ every parent holds, though still mixed with a firmly-embedded joy, concerning a child’s growth? It’s uncertain yet promising altogether.

How else could the poet grab your attention more than with the enjambments and few end-stopped lines sparingly used? The continuity of ideas and their tactical completion (stop) enhance its seamless flow.

The title “Is this love?” ushers us into the basket of love and romance, wonderfully placed in chapter three. From the shackles of heartbreak, the persona is courageous enough to re-toss himself into love.

But how, if though promising the stars, the beloved wants a moon too lofty to achieve at the start?

Though through an anaphora poem, “It was not you, the lover claims to have dreamt about a different “beloved’, the now-beloved begs the lover not to let her go, promising much than what the eyes now behold.

Could this be better exemplified than by what happens in real life, where, as we search, the ones we feel aren’t our exact match insist on staying and we’re trapped in an unpredictable dilemma?

The collection shapes the typical identity of love as a multifaceted voyage full of joy, coziness, laughter, and promises on one side; on the other, however:

Love is,

A sleeping dog: better left to lie.

One day it will make one fly.

The next one eyes tire in cry. (From: Twisted track)

An ironically titled poem, “Enslaved by freedom”, is the welcome mat to chapter four, which addresses the vagueness of freedom. Though seeming present, it’s only coated in its hollowness.

Its misuse proves fatal, bringing a sense of doubt on whether we’re really free or still enslaved.

It’s a head-scratching dilemma.

The chapter’s poems remind us that though free we may seem, freedom may be our undoing.

Unabated freedom brings a sense of confusion and life’s protocols are chided, launching one overboard.

When caution is thrown to the wind and every leaf falls, life becomes empty and that’s when the skeleton escapes and the empty body, the overly-free mind, loses meaning and direction, as is the book’s central idea.

Courage, resilience and other life’s valuable gems find their pages in the fifth chapter, Stony Path, where determination is championed as the way out even when life’s stony. Therefore,

My toes go in woes then my teeth in baskets.

Throwing mercy and kind out of the brackets.

But the end I still have to reach – the effort be mine

For I hold no other choice. So let it rain or shine. (From: Stony Path)

In a consequential irony, the author warns of the overhanging karma if, in life, you choose to do bad things to hurt others, thinking it won’t be your portion.

While stressing the need to snatch life’s best while still daytime, the author wistfully calls the reader’s attention to how the heart yearns for more, even past our achievements, making us restless animals.

The vice of discontentment, deeply embedded in humanity, must be chased away if happiness is to be evident.

Mindful of the mood and flow in every step, Mwongela carries the reader’s intellect in regulated waves of joy and ecstasy but also carefully plunges the reader’s thoughts into sad feelings and then out, for so, is the reality of life!

His strategic use of well-calculated literary devices such as metaphors, rhyme, alliteration and euphony makes him an exceptional and intentional bard at it.

The handpicked poems interestingly capture the reader’s attention by dawning on them the dangers of ignorantly letting go of things at their disposal.

The Pretty little bird” is a beautiful flashback poem of how opportunity may effortlessly find us, but we become sluggish in taking it up. It lurks around and then goes away, leaving us regretting.

The indecisiveness of the heart couldn’t be sculpted better than in the next poem to the above, At the bus stop.

Onwards, just like hunters in the cursed jungle, tired and worn out by the struggle, humanity denies not that life is undoubtedly a Stony Path.

With utmost respect, the author sails the reader through the aspects of nature, spirituality, life and death, demystifying the mysterious connectedness of each with the other.

The anthology achieves its musicality through the intentional refrains, rhymes and intertwined thoughts it presents, urging the reader on and on into its deep.

An agony-filled, regretful mood ushers the reader into chapter six, “On my death bed”, which recounts the repercussions of wrong decisions.

Narrated on the lonely Death Bed, the verses are the epitome of rhyme!

Taking the path of anxiety, the persona consoles himself that though wrongly, he did all he could in this life but now regrets it.

I really wish I had known it all

Mr. Lawrence Mwongela, author of the anthology “When the Skeleton Escaped”.

But now I know, life is one’s own

And in their hands, is their dusk and dawn. (From: My ‘friends’)

The urge is that after his death, the living should celebrate and live better lives instead of blaming the decaying bones!

Though inexact of the ‘another life’, the persona’s desire to be better and fruitful in the next life remains overt.

Sensational memories, nut-shelled in the final chapter’s twin poems, roll down the book’s curtains.

The beloved seeks the gone lover’s presence to fill the evident vacuum.

The loss is deep, but some hope within revives the underlying sense of the next life, and the beloved resolves that the memories shall not slip away:

Until in the glory of the Father

Promised we may meet again. (From: May we meet again)

Dear reader, this is the next book your shelve is asking for; the refreshing spring of thoughts your mind needs. It is an exceptionally thrilling compilation of diverse schools of thought you would very easily identify with and learn from; it’s a timely anthology weaved for the avid soul.

Undoubtedly, when the skeleton escapes, the departure burdens those behind.

About the Author

Mwongela is a young, upcoming author who focuses on putting a mirror in front of words to cast a reflection of reality.

As a youth enthusiast, he has led and also participated in numerous youth mentorship and empowerment programs aimed at modeling a responsible young generation, strong enough to jump over the random waves of negative influence.

He believes in mending and empowering the society, which is the family for all. Mwongela holds a bachelor’s degree in Project Planning and Management from Moi University, Kenya. As well, he is a music artist.

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Mr. Makau holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Linguistics, Media & Communication from Moi University, Kenya. He is a Columnist and Editor with Scholar Media Africa, with a keen interest in Education, Health, Climate Change, and Literature.


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