Book Review: A Journey Through Existence: North of My Mind by Alison Cole Chiori | Review by The BookLady NG

North of My Mind by Alison Cole is an exploration of the complexities of human existence, wrapped in a tapestry of emotions ranging from lost love to the subtle nuances of religious transition. Cole invites readers into the inner sanctum of his thoughts, employing a unique blend of love poems for anxious souls, introspective think pieces, and a mesmerising stream-of-consciousness narrative.

At its core, North of My Mind grapples with the universal theme of existential crisis, a journey that Cole navigates with a deft hand. His prose is beautiful, weaving together words that resonate deeply with anyone questioning their place in the world. The book transcends mere storytelling; it is a meditation on the human condition. In a one-liner titled, “Life’s Crevice”, Cole paints a vivid picture of how happiness is an elusive emotion that often rests within the innocent hands of children. It is a gentle nudge to us adults, to channel our inner child, to trust more, to be free-spirited, and to wholeheartedly savour life’s little pleasures. Cole’s words remind us that in embracing our childlike spirit, we might just find a deeper, more genuine happiness waiting for us. Contrary to “Life’s Crevice”, “Thoughts of an Internet Troll” depicts a different kind of happiness, one obtained at the expense of others.

One of the standout elements of Cole’s work is his ability to seamlessly embody the perspectives of admired and detested individuals. He invites readers to partake in a tantalising guessing game, leaving us to discern whose shoes he steps into at any given moment. This narrative technique adds a layer of intrigue that keeps the pages turning. Cole has woven this book into a sanctuary of healing and hope, even amidst the undertones of sorrow and pain that punctuate his paragraphs and verses. Through these pages, we become intimate observers of the persona’s journey – his hopes, joys, pains, and longings laid bare before us. We are granted access to his vulnerabilities, triumphs, and the essence that ignites his soul. With unflinching honesty, he entrusts us with his deepest confessions.

“When you lose your heart, you can still exist. But when you lose your soul…” You might as well be pretending to exist. “The numbness leaves you praying to feel pain.” Such is the depth of his sorrow in “Soul Search”. It is written with the realisation that being lost is not the most difficult part of existing, but staying lost. The motif of being lost in a living body continues in entries like “Mind of Kubla III” and “Absent-Minded”. In “Somebody Help I,” he laments the fact that art comes at a great cost, one that has to be paid in full.

The love poems, woven throughout the narrative, serve as delicate anchors in the storm of existential pondering. These verses are a testament to Cole’s sensitivity, offering solace and companionship to those who have grappled with the anxieties of love and loss. They are a poignant reminder that even in the darkest corners of our minds, there exists the possibility for connection and healing. In “Dear Sister,” he writes of all the ways he would have loved his sister if he ever had one. “Eternal Love” holds space for lovers that forces the hands of the gods to have them next to each other until their “body becomes the earth and then tress eventually.” It is a beautiful entry on the lasting echoes of true love.

Cole’s think pieces offer readers insights into the human experience. His musings are poignant reflections on life’s important questions. From the nature of existence to the intricacies of belief systems, Cole dives headfirst into the depths of human thought, inviting readers to accompany him on this introspective journey. The stream-of-consciousness narrative style employed by Cole is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it immerses readers in the unfiltered flow of his thoughts, providing an intimate view of his inner world. On the other hand, it demands patience and concentration, as the narrative can sometimes be intricate and dense.

While North of My Mind is a truly engaging read, there are moments when it feels like you’re peeking into someone’s unfiltered diary entry. There’s a sense that a bit more structure could make the narrative flow even smoother. Sometimes, the free-flowing style, though deeply personal, might benefit from a touch of organisation for those seeking a more linear journey. However, it’s worth noting that these nuances don’t overshadow the brilliance of Alison Cole’s introspective reflections. The book’s authenticity is its charm, offering a genuine window into the author’s innermost thoughts, which many of us can connect with personally. Despite these minor considerations, North of My Mind remains a moving and thought-provoking work.

The book is a journey of introspection and poetic expression. Alison Cole’s ability to dissect the human experience with such precision and vulnerability is remarkable. This book is a testament to the power of literature to illuminate the depths of our souls and connect us to the shared experiences that make us human.