Unique is often over used in relation to artistic expression and though the concept for this novel is not entirely new (movies like Look Who’s Talking and the first Back To The Future have similar narrators looking at life before they are born), it is no stretch to say this book is indeed a unique work of art and a joy to read.
Spanking New by Clifford Henderson is a story told from an unborn beings perspective (referred to as a “Floating Soul”) about her parents, how she chooses them, her eventual conception and all of the friends and family relationships that are involved in her upcoming life, when she is born into the “Land of Forgetting”. She is a Floating Soul waiting to become a “Me”.
The author’s use of the written word is theatrical (in the best sense) and captures feelings, experiences, thoughts and emotions that readers can identify with in them selves and/or others. As Spanky, which she (who wants to be a he) is often referred to in utero, says, “Words are one of the primary tools you get in the Land of Forgetting.”
We are taken for a sweet ride of language and gender calisthenics’, as we witness the meeting of Spanky’s soon to be parents, Nina and Rick and Nina’s friends Pablo and Dink. The description of Spanky’s conception and differences of yin and yang are hilarious. Once conceived, Spanky identifies her self as an “Anchored Soul” and the drama, humor and questions of identity and gender are intensified and explored individually and collectively.
At one point Spanky, in her observation’s of how some people think and are conditioned in the Land of Forgetting, says, “Maybe her refusal to admit she likes girls has to do with those nasty assumptions and opinions I’ve been warned about. They could for sure make a girl feel like she should like boys.” Rick and Nina’s wedding turn a lot of stereotypes upside down, but doesn’t let go of the prejudice and realities that still exist. In fact, that is one of the strong points of the story. What is accepted as “normal” or “expected” is questioned and often confounding to Spanky, as she awaits her arrival into this strange milieu of “shoulds” and “should nots”. In some respects, it is like an alien from another planet who is on a scouting mission to observe human culture and behavior and can see into our hearts and minds.
Ms. Henderson is a keen observer of what is said and what is unsaid. Conversations between characters are not just seen; they are felt. Spanky tells us what is happening, what may take place and what the person is thinking and feeling behind and underneath the words that are stated and the actions taken. We learn why a situation and reaction is as it is and why people do what they do (or don’t do).
Spanking New is a wonderful story. The birthing scene alone makes it worth reading and took me back to several different births I’ve been privileged to witness. The description of Charlottes (Nina’s Mom) prayer during her daughter’s labor and her conception of the God Charlotte is praying too, is precious. It beautifully describes how much we make God into our image of what we need and perceive at a given moment, as opposed to the other way around.
This is one newly converted fan, who is looking forward to Clifford’s forthcoming book titled Maye’s Request.