Under The Ivy is a unique collection of short stories and essays, all of which contain an inspirational spiritual element or undertone.
Easy to dip into, the book covers a broad array of subjects, from a girl with acne who is desperate to have clear skin, to an elderly lady with dementia trying to understand her path in life.
Although varied, the major theme that runs throughout each story is the sense of “overcoming” some great hurdle. It may be a sense of loss or grief, unrequited love or isolation from being different that presents the crisis, but help is found from the spiritual realm.
This metaphysical aid comes in many symbolic forms, such as guardian angels, saints or the kindly apparitions of those who have long since passed over, but each is a manifestation of, and connection to, a deeper reality than the protagonist was previously aware of.
In one story, for instance, a young girl is guided by angles during a serious operation, while another contemplating suicide is jolted away from her dark thoughts by the appearance of a rainbow.
Author Marcia Lake is a rising name in the sphere of mind, body and spirit (MBS) literature and her writing reflects her own beliefs and life experiences.
Having found great support in this world-view, her aim is to help awaken readers to their spiritual side and to show through her writing that there is a greater good at work in the universe that helps lost souls “learn their lessons in life”.
Her message is simple: that spiritual forces, including animals in some cases, can do much to protect us from harm and help us understand our spiritual pathways.
The MBS genre isn’t for everyone, and whether you subscribe to the author’s spiritual convictions or not is entirely a personal matter, but Marcia never oversteps the mark or risks harming the poignancy of each story or essay by coming across as preachy.
Indeed, she weaves her underlying beliefs subtlety into the narrative arcs so that they work towards the literary effect rather than intruding.
Each piece of writing is self-contained and exudes a sense of the poetic, with a fairytale and dream-like quality to them.
Though Marcia deals with traumas, her writing is designed to heal wounds rather than cause them, and build that essential feeling of hope even in the darkest hours.
In fact, the stories are often very funny and despite having a spiritual undertone are heavily set in realism and the relatable.
For instance, they’ll often be about common modern worries, such as having bad skin, finding a good job or yearning to find that special soul mate.
Teenage girls and young women may particularly connect to these tales, as will fans of the MBS genre, but the book is meant for anyone who has encountered difficulties and is looking for something beyond themselves to help fill a spiritual gap.
This is Marcia’s second book, and follows 2013’s Grace, a deeply personal and autobiographical account of her battle with, and eventual victory over, mental illness. Upon release, Grace was praised for breaking down barriers regards mental health issues and its inspirational message, and should be considered a companion piece to those who enjoy Under The Ivy.