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Reviewed by Patricia Reding for Readers' Favorite
My initial reaction on reading several of the poems in Words Never Spoken, by Cheryl Denise Bannerman, was: “Wow. What pain. What honesty.” Set forth in seven parts, following the subject’s life struggles, the book invites readers to consider a series of questions at the end of each chapter (making this a possible group study guide). The “About the Author” section at the back of the book provides: “Although this author’s works are fiction, she has incorporated many of her personal life’s experiences into her stories.” I do not know if the life experiences in these poems are the author’s own, or if they belong to others she knows, but without a doubt, they are real, raw, personal, and stripped down to base emotions. The reader finds herself encouraging the subject to rise above, mourning for her when she is victimized, and finally, celebrating in her triumph.
Cheryl Denise Bannerman’s poems in Words Never Spoken begin with a single mother, newly divorced, at forty years of age, clinging to her faith. Before long, she meets Mr. Wonderful. But is he? From the outside looking in, it is fairly easy to see the control this person exercises, the advantages he takes, and the pain he is sure to cause. Yet the reader finds she can make no judgment. We all know the phenomenon that occurs in these circumstances, the belief that this time it will be different, the quick denial that can convince us that what is happening is not really happening. Soon the subject of these poems finds herself able to acknowledge the reality of Mr. Wonderful’s mood swings and addictions. Bannerman’s introduction to Chapter 3 reads: “Girl, let me school you . . .” And “school you,” she will. Here the physical and emotional abuses begin, as Mr. Wonderful rubs his cheating in her face and sends her self-esteem spiraling downward, opening the door to her utter desperation and depression.
The author’s word choices and phraseology at times display not only her own personal unique voice, but also that of a culture. Yet the truths they illustrate transcend all cultures. Thus, the author’s phrasing at times will shock the reader into the moment. She will find herself spellbound by Cheryl Denise Bannerman’s deep honesty in Words Never Spoken, because she will be able to identify with her, in one way or another, from pains experienced in her own life.