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Reviewed by Viga Boland for Readers' Favorite
Red Roses by Briana Martin is not an easy book to review, unless you are someone who's really into poetry and understands its nuances. So much is buried beneath the words, and yet that is strangely appropriate, given Red Roses is actually a memoir, and one born of pain. As in any pain-laced memoir, only so much is ever revealed: the rest is buried deep within the writer's psyche.
Red Roses is a rarer form of memoir and one that requires great writing skill to pull off. Briana Martin has that skill. Through poetry, rather than the usual narrative form of memoir, she reveals the pain a child feels when abandoned by her mother to the man she claims is her father, only to find out years later that she is not related to him at all. However, he is the only father she has known and she loves him. Briana's step-mom tells her to move on, get over it, but the poet tells the reader in a line I can't forget: "I pull up my sleeves and show you my stories etched in scars." What a powerful line! I wish I'd written it.
Red Roses is a two-part story: childhood and adulthood. Briana Martin preps us for the transition, and that transition is further mirrored in the poetic styles used: the child poet writes in relatively simple language; the adult poet is deep, loves imagery and beautiful phrasing. Her messages are buried beneath words that force you to set aside the book for a moment and contemplate what you just read. The adult Briana has travelled and tasted the world's sensual and other pleasures. And though today she is an accomplished writer and student affairs professional, one senses there's still lots of discovery of self still ahead of her. Will Red Roses be her last book of this kind? Highly unlikely.