It’s difficult to tear your eyes away from this book, the first time you catch sight of the cover. Dark red, with the illustration of a clock with Roman numerals, surrounded by twisted, curved branches and two owls looking at the clock, its hands pointed straight north in reference to the title.
“Midnight Monologues: Poems and Short Stories” by Charissa Ong T.Y. is all at once easy to read and yet, there are pieces that urge you to stay still and let the words wash over you once, twice more, almost like the way a wave would do its best to knock you over – until you’re left standing, free to move on to the next page.
An emotional journey
The book contains 4 parts: Lost, Found, Hope and Short Stories. It’s best summed up as a self-reflecting journey of loss, heartbreak and acceptance. Fitting, as the book was actually inspired by Ong’s own break-up, before she would go on to write the book that would garner her several awards, including MPH’s Best Book of 2016 and Best Cover Design: Fiction category as well as Award-Winning Finalist in the Poetry category at the 2017 International Book Awards.
One of the elements of the book that stands out is Ong’s diminishing poetry – it feels almost like stripping off the layers of everything encompassing a certain emotion or event, until you’re left with the core of it all. And that’s how the book opens, and it sets the tone for the rest of the poetry.
Some of the poems feel particularly evocative of her musings and thoughts. In ‘I Wonder’, it’s evident that it’s the questions, the ‘what-ifs’ that continue to haunt us, long after we’ve cut ties from someone, who at one point, was probably the closest person to us.
On the other hand, ‘Social Love’ hits a little close to home in an era where oversharing on social media is an all too real issue.
But ‘Midnight Monologues’ doesn’t leave you wallowing in sadness, with pieces like ‘Baggage’ and ‘You Are My Home’ giving a semblance of hope in the light of one’s flaws, and how the existence of strength can be found elsewhere after a long journey of heartbreak.
Life lessons in stories
The short stories, however, were entertaining as they were eye-opening. And perhaps, even more enjoyable than the poetry section, at least in my personal opinion. Fantastical elements weave through most of the stories seamlessly, from the little boy and the white sheep, to Annie’s adventure in The Blue Village and the Nameless Woods.
Above all, these stories are filled with simple, easily-grasped life lessons. Cherish life, don’t be greedy, be good to others – and it doesn’t hurt to be reminded again of these.
As the youngest self-made publisher, Charissa Ong has undoubtedly tapped into a specific, but lucrative market at the moment, with the likes of Lang Leave, Rupi Kaur and Atticus, who are some of the most prominent names in the industry.
And with how easy ‘Midnight Monologues’ is to consume, there’s no doubting this is a book that one will return to time and again, if only for a cosy moment with a cup of tea, the words something warm and soft to hold against you.
What are your thoughts?
Will you be picking this book up? If you’d like to read more of Charissa Ong’s pieces, you can pick up a copy from @besteastern_bookstore.
What books should Neue review next?