In her memoir Sacred Groves: Or, How a Cemetery Saved My Soul, Kathleen Davies examines the concept of identity through the lens of a novice female professor. Through her experiences as an outcast and stepping into new territories, Davies finds her purpose in life—ironically in a Victorian graveyard. The cemetery magically holds parallel to her internal battles in ways that are enlightening and serve as a heaven on earth in a world full of uncomfortable encounters. Not only does her muse scream at her, surrounded by mesmerizing architectural beauties in nature, but she has a self-awakening among her observations. Told with poems, witty snippets from her journey, and photographs of headstones and mausoleums taken with her own camera, Davies breathes life into the inanimate statues and lifeless tombs, making the local graveyard her “feminine space,” almost like a garden. By describing such a serene place using textures and voiced appreciations, Davies not only provokes imagination for herself, but also for the reader. She remarkably navigates through the unknown and speaks her truth with such vulnerability, revealing that through suffering, humans often find hidden truths.
After leaving her both her home in Bloomington, Indiana and her non-committal boyfriend, Davies finds herself drifting around Beantown, Ohio looking for her meaning. She soon discovers that her colleagues aren’t really her people, causing her to question both her career and identity. Her words feel personal, almost conversational, and her use of quirky, intellectual language immerses the reader into her detailed findings and mental connections, allowing room for resonation. Sewing this with her researched knowledge on the origins of symbols found in the cemetery, she creates an intriguing storyline.
This memoir is an adventure through reality, bringing to the surface the sacred meaning of the human experience. Through meditation in a safe, solemn space, she was able to connect the insensible and unleash her inner creative. Davies proves that if one’s heart isn’t in their work, there isn’t a point in pursuing it, especially if there’s a lack of self. With that, she also is a living example that the pressures in society did not hinder her spirit.
“The flowers were an emblem of my desire, a wish for a lover, and most importantly, a pledge to myself that I wouldn’t let my career crush my own untamed flowering."
With an unequivocally strange but beautiful mind, her style is comparable to that of Tim Burton. She has an appreciation for the dark side that most are afraid to dabble in, fearful of being judged. But whenever she found herself tried, she always found the Universe speaking to her, reconnecting herself to her spirituality in odd, almost humorous, ways. If readers are looking to relate to a rollercoaster story of self-failure, self-discovery, or are just plain curious on life’s ambitions, this fascinating read will find a very special place in one’s life to teach them that self-acceptance will manifest into abundance, much like Davies experienced.