PATHS OF FEAR is an attempt to look at the concept of fear from a number of angles, to understand its power and how humans cope with it. The anthology includes fears ranging from the desperate sickness of an infant to the blood and death of the battlefield, and writings ranging from poetry to scientific essays to religious exhortations.
The sheer variety of the writing ensures there is something for everyone – however, the crowded look created by the font size and single-spacing of the text make it difficult to read with ease in either paper or electronic format. Once past that, however, there is almost certain to be at least one, probably several pieces in the book that grab the attention, chill the spine, or provoke thought. The benefit of an anthology format, organized as this one is into topics, is that the reader can select the pieces they prefer and leave the rest alone.
The best part of the book is the short stories – “Eggnog” and “Rituals”, for example, are both heartwarming and faith-restoring, while “Malignant” raises painful questions about agency, abuse, and mental illness and “The Sounds of Fear” will give parents nightmares (and hopefully make anti-vaxxers rethink their choices). The essays address everything from the scientific basis of fear to useful advice on how to overcome, for example, fear of public speaking. Ms. Kerbs writes a good many of the essays in the book, particularly in the religion section, which she dominates (though Emilia Tupy is given credit for one essay, “A Reluctant Hero”, in the Table of Contents, it is attributed to Ms. Kerbs when it appears in the book). While she is a fine writer, and her religious writing is passionate, thoughtfully argued, and deeply felt, this leaves the religion section somewhat unbalanced – despite lip service to ecumenicism, the entire religion section is devoted pretty exclusively to her Christian beliefs, making it less accessible for those of other faiths.
The book includes some beautiful pieces of classic poetry, like Parnell’s “A Night Piece on Death,” and Grey’s “An Elegy Written in a Country Church Yard” (with commentary), as well as Henry Lawson’s more amusing and perspective-providing “Rebuttal to the Boneyard Boys”, but the more modern poetry in it unfortunately tends to be rambling, somewhat didactic, and with insufficient attention to the music of the language itself, the rhythm and flow of the words.
PATHS OF FEAR is a diverse anthology that will engage both mind and heart on a topic familiar to every human being.
~Catherine Langrehr for IndieReader