Book review – Each of Us a Petal by Amanda Huggins

Whatever season you choose to read, or give, these stories by Amanda Huggins, the gently tended sentences will reward you with a deep sense of connection with nature. Each is a portrait of a character treading carefully through their own personal emotional landscape, set against the sensorial wealth of Japan. Amanda candidly reveals her own fervour for this country in the collection’s foreword and closing essay. Once you start reading the stories, you’ll find the author’s enduring interest in and passion for this country and the people who live or visit it seeping under your skin.

Yearning is portrayed as the enduring human condition, with hints of loneliness and solace whispered in the most enticing settings where hints of Japanese folklore occasionally wriggle into the heart of contemporary tales.

These strands weave together exquisitely in An Unfamiliar Landscape, where we explore a mountainous wilderness with protagonist Sophia: “Dropped into the silence, every noise had a clear meaning, each sound demanded her attention. She was finally connected.”

The remedy for loneliness, it seems, is to be outside amid the beauty of nature.

This idea is reiterated in The Same Pretty Eyes, as protagonist Edie decides to step outside “to salvage something beautiful from the tail end of the day. That was all she wanted: a few moments in the mountain air, the smell of damp bark, the darkening night, the first faint stars.”

In the single-page story Sparrow Footprints, Amanda captures the sweet melancholy lingering in the words unspoken and demonstrates the power of white space on the page. It’s an example the author’s powers of constraint, with every sentence carved and stacked to build into a story’s perfect range. She is the master of crafting and presenting a moment’s interaction between two people, imbuing the most seemingly straightforward setting with drops of emotion that ripple our far beyond the edges of the scene.

In several of the tales, Amanda gifts us artfully understated moments with the bitter-sweet aftertaste of  Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day.

From the love embodied in a jar of sweet bean jam to the precision of raked gravel the stories chime with our expectations of Japan while delicately breathing life into the scenes and characters. These stories dive far deeper than the surface clichés and show us the respect of the author through the aspects she chooses to illustrate her themes. You’ll emerge with all your senses tingling from the pleasures of relishing minor details, from a simple cup of tea to a fleeting interaction with someone, or somewhere, with the potential to be the love of your life.

Following the closure of Victorina Press, you can buy signed copies of ‘Each of Us a Petal’ directly from the author.

This book was given to me in exchange for a fair review.

What are you reading? I’d love to know. I’m always happy to receive reviews of books, art, theatre and film. To submit or suggest a review, please send an email to judydarley (at)