Seyward Goodhand, 224 pages, Invisible Publishing, Sept. 16, 2019
With a stroke of a pen, a talented author can turn blank pages and scribbles of ink into works of art, creating new worlds, life situations and more. Seyward Goodhand masterfully does this in Even That Wildest Hope, as she invites readers into a sea of serious subject matter through 10 stories that range from addressing identity crises, health issues and existentialism, leaving readers with only the choice to dive in.
The first tidal wave of this book is “Enkidu.” First appearing in ancient Mesopotamian mythology in the Epic of Gilgamesh, Enkidu is introduced as a wild man-beast who is secluded in the wilderness and befriends animals. He does not know his identity, yet he lives among the wild animals, protecting them from poachers. The story takes a turn when he meets Gilgamesh, a “God-man,” who then kills his sister Splash, who is a deer, and gives him the name Enkidu.
Despite their unfortunate first encounter, the pair grow to love one another, and as the story progresses, they realize that their strength, stature and feelings of loneliness can only be matched by those of the other. Though the story ends in tragedy with Enkidu succumbing to illness, the story highlights the importance of belonging and the journey of self-discovery.
The second story is “So I Can Win, the Galatrax Must Die.” The Galatrax, a Goodhand-created creature, is described in a lighthearted way. This animal is beloved by many, but its nutritional composition makes it a staple in bodybuilder diets. The story follows a female bodybuilder who trains hard but also eats galatrae (plural of galatrax). The story then goes into detail of how the bodybuilder prepares, eats and disposes of her captured galatrae. After she eats, she then throws away the trash, meets with her neighbor Neil and observes a girl riding a bike, who is wearing the same dress she changed into.
This story is significant because it juxtaposes the girl with the bodybuilder. As the girl is making mistakes of riding through stop signs, her lower body is described as a “globular mass.” So too is the bodybuilder being careless, treating animals in a way that is in opposition to her love for galatrae, which in turn has created her own globular mass that represents the negative effects of hypocrisy, guilt and shame.
Also, this story draws attention to the use of performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs). With PEDs used in sports globally, with athletes like Lance Armstrong admitting to using PEDs during his career, it reminds the reader of both the existence of PEDs, the physical divide between PED users and non-users and the mental and physical stresses these athletes endure in order to win.
There is a similar reference to athletes in “Felix Baumgartner’s Guardian Angel.” As the name suggests, the story follows an ethereal being that is protecting daredevil Felix Baumgartner during his Red Bull Stratos jump in 2012. The angel is trying to convince Baumgartner not to jump, to reconsider his family and his determination to break Joe Kittinger’s record jump. However, as the angel is attracted to his body scent, it begins to trust him and subsequently protects him through the fall. The story puts the prayers and hopes of Baumgartner’s family and those following the jump globally into an angelic form. This story can help readers remind themselves of those who care for them and realize their significance in the world.
Goodhand's book of stories explores a range of serious issues that influences introspection in its readers. Some stories are enjoyable, while others are hard to digest, but this book should be on the reading list of many who are still searching for that wildest hope in their lives.