BACK in 2008, I interviewed author Mary Bowmaker when her book, Is Anybody There, was released.
I began by saying: “Everyone, they say, has a book inside them; or just maybe more than one. Mary Bowmaker, from Newcastle, never set out to be an author, but the fates had decided otherwise.”
Of course, it wasn’t really “the fates” which decided whether Mary would have a stab at writing another book – her third – but Mary herself. And she did.
Her latest work, Leaning On The Invisible, is a unique look at the paranormal – that tantalising unseen world without which we would be immeasurably impoverished.
I was honoured indeed when Mary asked me to pen the foreword for her new tome.
She is a professional musician, teacher and performer, and leans naturally towards the arts.
However, as a child she was told stories by her grandmother, a medium, which left her with an abiding fascination for the supernatural.
In Leaning On The Invisible, Mary recounts many experiences of ordinary people which demand extraordinary explanations.
But she goes deeper than that, examining the relationship between body and spirit, the nature of “the inner self”, the constant presence of “unexpected things” in our lives and, to top it all, the connection between the preternatural and complimentary therapies used to treat disease.
I asked Mary what had motivated her to take such an unusual approach, and her response was intriguing.
“I didn’t plan on going in any particular direction; I just wrote as I felt. I suppose it was a mixture of intuition and experience.”
Anyone who reads the book will agree, methinks. Mary doesn’t force the subject matter down any particular route; she just lets her thoughts flow and find their own level.
Some of her beliefs – her philosophy, if you like – are borne on the wings of personal experience; high moments and low ones.
On one occasion, she recounts, she was, “... alone in my room, feeling extremely desperate about the seeming foolishness of life, and I asked out loud that, if there was a God, could he help?”
It was a refreshing change to talk to someone who wasn’t trying to reduce the paranormal down to raw data and statistics, or explain away preternatural experiences by throwing up absurd “rational” interpretations of the evidence when none were patently applicable.
The strength of Mary’s book, I think, is the way in which it naturally integrates strange or enigmatic experiences with everyday life.
The supernatural, seen in its proper light, is actually an aspect of the natural.
Instead of fighting against it, we should embrace it openly. To deny it is to cut ourselves off from a vital part of the human experience.
The truth, according to Mary, is that we all “lean on the invisible.” As she admits herself, her book is, “a story full of questions where we ourselves discover the answers ... it is a story of the unbelievable made real”.
Linking the pearls of Mary’s understanding are real-life accounts of the strangest experiences and events; a woman who had dental surgery without anaesthetic, the mysterious church clock which inexplicably strikes an extra hour, the hospital patient who developed a phantom “third arm” ... it’s riveting stuff.
Reading them proves an important point; that there is no neat cut-off point between natural and supernatural explanations.
Readers will be happy to know that Mary has donated two signed copies of her book.
They’ll be sent to the first two readers who e-mail me (firstname.lastname@example.org) with the answer to this question: Mary’s first volume detailed the life of a Victorian schoolmistress.
What was the full title of the book?
* Leaning on the Invisible is available at Amazon.co.uk, and is published by Courtenbede, priced £11.99 (ISBN: 978-0-9554292-1-7)