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Fiction in Review — Hidden Passages

Hidden Passages: Tales to honor the crones
Villa SpiderHawk
2006 by Spilled Candy Books
ISBN: 189271857-x
Paperback; 292 pages

Hidden Passages is a lovely book collection of eight stories that celebrate not only crones, but all women. Rather than creating simple stories that merely tell the tale of single crones, Villa SpiderHawk has skillfully woven the crone theme into stories that include or are told by women of all ages. Some read well as the fiction they are, reaching back into history or incorporating a bit of fantasy.

But the piece I found most moving and beautifully written was the first, titled "Mima Po." I was convinced this was a true story, lovingly remembered and told by someone who lived it. Narrated by an adult looking back on her childhood friendship with a special crone, it reminded me of my own version of Mima Po whom I had known as a young girl. How many of us have known these women?

Mima Po is an elderly woman whom everyone in the neighborhood fears, or dismisses as eccentric, or suggests she is a (gasp!) witch. But a young girl named Jody discovers Mima's true beauty as their unlikely friendship develops.

"Passages," also told in first person, connects a girl from an ancient tribe, who is experiencing her rite of passage from girl to woman, to a modern witch searching for her spiritual name.

The next three pieces are parts of a whole. One A story is told from the viewpoint of three different females: Cara the maiden; Donnata, her mother; and Heraulta, her grandmother. The separate stages of maiden, mother and crone are played out and illustrated wonderfully in this telling.

"Nanu's Story" reads as an ancient legend. A child learns a valuable lesson from her grandmother who, instead of reacting in anger over a damaged gift, tells the girl a story of Tichu — a woman who changed life for all her tribe when the grandmother was a little girl.

"Gita's Journey" is a poignant story of a grieving mother, unable to let go of her grief and move on until she is forced to look at things by an ethereal old woman she calls Circle Woman.

The last story, "Lavinia" is not necessarily what it seems. Two friends, one of whom is doing research, visit a mysterious old woman named Lavinia in a nursing home. To say much more would be to reveal the twists and turns that lead to a very surprising ending.

As I closed the book I was sorry that I'd come to the end. Though short stories are not always my favorite form of reading, I found myself wanting more of Villa SpiderHawk's work. This is a book I highly recommend for Goddess women to have handy on our shelves so we can pull it out to reread when we want to be both entertained and inspired.

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