Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Bone Spindle

By Anne Sheldon

Available from Aqueduct Press, $9.00

Book Reviewed By Linda Goodman

On June 4, I had the pleasure of hearing and seeing Anne Sheldon tell stories at the 31st Annual Washington, D.C. Folk Festival. She and storyteller Jane Dorfman partnered to tell three different versions of the Rumpelstiltskin tale. All were delightful, but it was the third tale, Rumpelstiltskin’s Lament, told from his point of view, that convinced me I needed to buy Anne’s book, The Bone Spindle, a collection of fourteen stories, most in poetry form, centering upon women whose lives are spent working with spinning wheels, spindles, and knitting needles.

“Why is it such a bad thing to want the child?” Rumpelstiltskin asks.
“Straw into gold? I would have taught him spin straw into moonlight!” he laments. Such beautiful imagery is scattered throughout each story, leaving the reader aching with the raw emotions so delicately brought to the surface.

The Story of Arachne is gut-wrenching as we see her father running to and fro, doing her bidding in spite of her nasty disposition; sobbing uncontrollably as he stands by helplessly while Athena exacts a too cruel revenge. Told in verse, it is an ethereal warning against taunting the gods.

Dream from My Mother’s House tells a haunting story, one that will visit me in my dreams. Susan, a young girl who has lost her brother, a friend, and a possible suitor to a terrible accident, is trying to cope with tragedy. When a crow leads her to a circle of ghosts on Halloween night, she wants to hug her brother, but she cannot, because she wonders“…what if I hugged him and my arms were empty?” And her suitor? Of him she says, “he wasn’t the Lewis I missed the most, and this Lewis didn’t miss me.” While this story is prose, verse is sprinkled throughout, to amazing and heartbreaking effect:

Slip the needle through and up.
Tuck the yarn around.
Dip the needle under.
Someone’s in the ground.

A man and wife lose their daughter, a young girl who appeared at their door one day to weave their life of poverty into one of riches in The Crane Maiden.

In fairy tales,
there’s a thing you must not do
if you love someone
who’s not of your own kind

The bone spindle is an instrument capable of bringing both danger and comfort. This is a book that should be kept by your bedside, for those nights when sleep will not come; when you need assurance that even in the darkest hours, beauty can eclipse the pain.


  1. Linda! What a stunning review - so worthy of a beautiful, touching and at times laugh out loud book.

    I too bought a copy at the Washington Folk Festival - and I'm so glad I did. It is a jewel of a book and your review captured it's nuances perfectly.


  2. Hmmmm....I am going to buy this right now. I love dark, haunting stories. Sounds great. And as always Linda, thanks for the great review!!! Saves me a lot of time mucking through material I may not like.