“My Piano Hands” by Kathryn Atkins

My Piano Hands: A Flash Memoir Collection

Kathryn Atkins
Outskirts Press (2020)
Reviewed by Tammy Ruggles (12/2020)

“My Piano Hands: A Flash Memoir Collection,” by Kathryn Atkins, is a moving memoir about a gifted pianist who describes her life in scrapbook form, from wondering about the origins of her “Piano Hands,” to whether she is deserving of her talent for music and love of the arts, and a whole lot more. She loves music and learns that her ability comes from a biological parent, though is nurtured by her adoptive family. But with her gift comes doubt, fear, and anxiety. Her saving grace is creativity, which she uses to let go of old ghosts that haunt her. Dancing, yoga, writing, gardening, and knitting help her to manage her stress and downsize things that pile up in her life. While examining her life and getting in touch with herself, Atkins also wonders if she’s living a full life and making the most of what she’s been given and gives away.

For a compact book, it has a lot to say. About the arts and how they can help one heal, how you can find yourself in creative expression, and how the author uses her gifts in all facets of her life. The writing itself plays like a piece of piano music–up, down, shy, forward–an eclectic but measured mix of emotions and thoughts. As you read, you begin to understand the author’s journey to find the meaning of her life, and her desire for it to have meaning. It’s an almost-universal need to know for most of us, and Atkins writes about it with great insight–sometimes painful, sometimes joyful. And isn’t that what the journey is all about? I love that she shares her most personal vulnerabilities, like feeling unworthy of a gift, being proud of a poem she wrote, sharing her piano piece, and fearing she would die of COVID-19 before she could finish this book. I like her wide-ranging opinions and at times borderline-cynical sense of humor, as well as the unconventional organization of the book’s contents.

“My Piano Hands: A Flash Memoir Collection”, by Kathryn Atkins is a nice little gold nugget to add to your library shelf.

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