Naked Crow : P. Z. Walker Published January 28, 2014
What would you do if your friend were to disappear? You would do everything you could do to find them wouldn’t you? What if that same friend was a naturist, and disappeared at a naturist resort and you weren’t a naturist?
That adds an interesting twist, right? That is the situation that we find in P.Z. Walker’s “Naked Crow.” Josy, a dental hygienist, and naturist, disappears on a regular weekend visit to her local resort “Mighty Oaks.” Her friend Sheila is our main companion on this journey of discovery; not only the one of trying to find her friend, but also one of her understanding and embracing naturism. We are also introduced to a supporting cast of characters from Mike, the “caveman” who both works and resides at Mighty Oaks, to Wendy, Sheila’s friend and Mike’s love interest, as well as several others.
The story begins just before Josy’s disappearance, so we are introduced to the relationship that she and Sheila share. We also learn that Sheila is involved in magical pursuits, which turns into a major part of the story. After a blow to the head and Josy’s disappearance, Sheila begins to develop psychic powers which allow her to see auras, and then eventually communicate with her spirit guide, and time travel. I know that last bit seems like a stretch, but I will address that momentarily.
Now while Sheila is working with her newfound powers and playing detective, she is also delving into the world of naturism. I must admit that, in my opinion, naturism was handled in a quite realistic way in “Naked Crow.” Sheila is never forced to remove her clothes when she goes to look for Josy at the resort, as the individuals there know that she isn’t a naturist herself, and she is there to search for the missing Josy, not to lookie loo. She is however encouraged to do so if and when she feels comfortable, at her own pace. Sheila encounters naturists that have survived cancer, amputations, and families with children, just a true cross section of the population at large. While discussing the proper terminology to use when referring to people as naturists or nudists, Mike tells Sheila, “Naturist, nudist, undressed. All labels and labels go into the clothes that we don’t like to wear.” I found that a pretty powerful quote actually, and so did Sheila, as she contemplates it much later in the story as she experiences home naturism.
I have to confess that as I started to read “Naked Crow,” it took me a good deal of acclimating to the writer’s style before I could get into the story. The locations are very generic, which I can understand when, as a writer, you want your audience to be able to picture the setting as somewhere they can relate to. However, Mr. Walker in my opinion makes things too general. For example when referring to our lead characters’ workplace as “that place” or “going to that location,” instead of giving it an actual name. It made it difficult to decipher exactly where they were heading at times. He also left our characters very generalized, a blank canvas so to speak, not giving their physical descriptions with the exception to that being hair color. I think this may have been a device to show that as naturists we tend to see individuals for their personality and not their physicality. Another thing that I found distracting was the way the dialogue was written; it was very halting, and never felt natural. It felt as though the book was originally published in another language, and some of the rhythm and flow was lost in the translation to English. As a reader, I try to picture the story in my imagination, something that I have always done and enjoyed. The one thing that I kept picturing when there was dialogue was that I was watching a foreign movie that the English translation had been dubbed over.
Now earlier, I mentioned Sheila learned about her powers and used them to time travel. While I will not divulge all of the details that lead to this, or even how it was utilized, I really think it was a major stretch. Discussing the issue of time, I also want to mention as we neared the conclusion of the story, continuity and the passage of time really just got lost somewhere in the mix. It felt as though the author rushed the ending, trying to tie up too many story points quickly ended up leaving too many questions unanswered, without the setup of a sequel. Overall, even with my criticisms,
I did enjoy reading “Naked Crow.” It was refreshing to delve into a piece of fiction where naturism was handled candidly and honestly without an undercurrent of abnormality, and I admit I did become attached to the characters. Would I love to sit down with Mr. Walker and discuss this story and what happened to everyone? Absolutely! If you are looking for a fun read for poolside for the upcoming season, I would recommend downloading a copy of “Naked Crow.” I leave you with a quote from our story, “…you don’t have a clue what naturism or nudism is unless you’ve tried it. And then you find it’s not that big deal most people make of it.” Naturally! Finneas Ryder
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