Friday, March 15, 2013

Book Review: Machaelle Small Wright Autobiographies

Fairies and Science Fiction For Skeptics:
A Review of Dancing in the Shadows of the Moon and
Behaving As If the God in All Life Mattered
by Machaelle Small Wright

Once in a while, you'll run into books unlike anything you've read before, and that completely change your view of what's possible. Not in the usual sense with people surmounting overwhelming physical and emotional challenges, but that have you questioning reality. Machaelle Small Wright's non-fictional, autobiographical books will either make you doubt the author's sanity, or your own, but the latter will be in an unexpectedly empowering way.

Dancing in the Shadows of the Moon, and Behaving As If the God in All Life Mattered are two books from Perelandra, the author's nature research center specialising in “nature intelligences” based in Virginia. From the start, Machaelle self-published her books because they were so odd, and so she could keep them in print; they are still available today from Amazon, Book Depository and Perelandra's own website. Behaving As If the God in All Life Mattered came first in 1983, followed by Dancing in the Shadows of the Moon.

The books follow Machaelle's life, which started off relatively normal. As events took a turn for the “twilight zone,” however, beginning with Machaelle's move to the Virginia countryside, Dancing deftly gets up close and personal with how Machaelle learned to take it in stride (though not without struggle), and go from strength to strength. The events in both books are so incredible that it may be better to start with Dancing, as I did by chance: the writing is so much more detailed (perhaps coming from growing confidence and experience) that it feels more real, which is important when you're reading about some pretty “unreal” stuff—nature spirits, astral travel, and living a second life in another universe.

While Dancing In the Shadows of the Moon gets into the detail of Machaelle's metaphysical discoveries, in Behaving, the author's challenging childhood and first marriage takes centerstage. The books are compelling; no matter how high your disbelief is suspended, you read just to follow Machaelle's adventures, her lessons in meditation, communicating with nature intelligences (or devas and nature spirits and possibly the fairy folk to you and me), discovering past lives, shifting into a different world, working with energy, and manifestation of the level that makes The Secret look like kids' stuff. Machelle's books do two conflicting and difficult things: They are autobiographical but read like science-fiction; They are also grounded in our world (specifically, the United States and Europe circa 1970s and 80s) and manage to make magic—or what looks like magic—possible.

Behaving and Dancing have now gone through multiple printings; my copy of Behaving is an updated and revised edition from 1997. Machaelle Small Wright has more than built upon her work since the experiences described in both these books: Perelandra's catalog today includes books, videos, CDs, flower essence kits and more—all for teaching anyone how to work with nature for the environments and spaces that are kinder and healthier for both people and the planet.

About the Reviewer: Janet Chui is a freelance fantasy artist based in Singapore. She is no stranger to odd, self-published books, having edited, illustrated and published The Field Guide to Surreal Botany, a collection of fictitious plants, that was reviewed (positively) by Science magazine and that made her a 2009 World Fantasy Award finalist. When Janet isn't producing illustrations, paintings, or items for her Etsy shop, she dabbles in soapmaking and leads history tours around the tropical island of her birth.

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