Pieces takes readers on a journey through the mind. Set in a squalid POW camp, 'where life is only as
certain as the last meal,' it demonstrates the mentality of survivors:
...Confined, men grow
twisting around one another,
reaching each for their truth,
singleminded on survival.
It demonstrates how love and hope cling to pockets of inspiration:
Bartering morsels for medicines, attentive to
the other's every breath, this one man advertises
his love, beams his pleasure in his lover's recovery.
This inspiration very often comes from the wildlife in and beyond the boundaries of the camp.
...this one white-starred flower,
its broken stem leaking jewels of sap, becomes
an object of reverence.
Smith also reveals the difficulties such survivors experience when integrating back into society after release.
These men move from being 'passive spectators of their own lives' in the camp to being spectators on the fringes of ordinary
life. The once-prisoners of war become 'prisoners of their histories'.
This powerful book is well worth the money not only for its unassuming psychological insights but for the
exquisite sensual images that pervade, all of which are startlingly English. Don't be deterred by the subject matter,
this is not a squeamish book; it is a book that explores our values of life and it is a book about endurance and beauty.
About 60 pages long, its unshrinking, forthright style make it quite quick to read (I didn't want to put it down) but the
images therein linger long after the turning of each page. Pieces should not be left sitting on any publisher's
shelf; it should be dog-eared and passed on.