Mesmerized by the Cosmos: On Rebecca Fish Ewan’s ‘By the Forces of Gravity’

Fish Ewan’s memoir-in-free-verse is a compelling auto-ethnography of a wayward childhood, loss of innocence, & search for love.


Rebecca Fish Ewan
Memoir | 404 Pages | 6” x 9” | Reviewed: Paperback
978–0999429976 | First Edition | $24.00
Books by Hippocampus | Lancaster, PA | BUY HERE

Image: Books by Hippocampus.

In 1970s Berkeley, California, 12-year-old Becky Star Fish and her best friend, Luna, lived the seemingly idyllic hippie lifestyle. On an endless cosmic quest for psychedelic enlightenment, the two take up residence in an adult-free kids’ commune immersed in drugs, alcohol, parties, and adventure.

Narrated in free verse with accompanying illustrations drawn by the author, By the Forces of Gravity, is a captivating coming-of-age memoir that draws its energy from the intensity of the love between “soul friends” Becky and Luna, against the backdrop of an unrestrained and confusion-filled counter-culture social climate.

Although Becky and Luna are close friends, their relationship can better be described as one-sided infatuation. Becky obsesses over Luna’s approval and strives to be more carefree, open to love, and free of possessions, to see the world and the people in it as “super fine,” like Luna does.

“Me and Lina are exchanging our names
For new names
She picks Luna
So actually she’s only swapping one letter
For another letter
I for U
Which says a lot about her
Since she always thinks of other people
Before she thinks of herself
She warns me all the time
Not to love The I too much
Instead I need to get along with Id and Ego
Which sounds like names of two troll brothers
Who live under a bridge”

Men play either an absentee role (in the case of Becky’s father) or something to be regarded with suspicion. Becky’s virginity is a constant preoccupation of hers and the mostly older men who come in and out of the girls’ homes and lives. They try to entice Becky with food, attention, and drugs to earn her trust. While Luna trusts everyone, Becky does not, and it is this difference in perception of others that ultimately drives them apart.

As Becky grows older and more aware of her own wants and desires, Luna and she start to grow apart. Luna moves on to befriend others that Becky doesn’t like, and Becky falls in love with a boy who loves her back. After dropping out of elementary school to live in the commune, she eventually returns to school and finds that she thrives there, even if she has to play catch-up on the lessons she missed in the formative years.

An unsuspecting tragedy separates the girls from each other for good, leaving Becky to exist in a haze of darkness that is reflected in the illustrations on black, scribbled pages.

“I’m not sure
How much of my days are spent staring
Into the distance without blinking
There are times when I feel like everything around
Is fading away
I’m not sure
When I cut my hair
Or grow taller than my sisters
I’m not sure
When time becomes liquid
Spilling along in the easiest direction”

By the Forces of Gravity is a compelling auto-ethnography of a wayward childhood, loss of innocence, search for love, and catapult into an unforeseen future. It will warm your heart while it breaks it as you root for a young girl mesmerized by the cosmos and finding her place in the world.

MELISSA GRUNOW is the author of Realizing River City (Tumbleweed Books, 2016) and I Don’t Belong Here, forthcoming from New Meridian Arts Press in fall 2018. Her work has appeared in Creative Nonfiction, River Teeth, The Nervous Breakdown, New Plains Review, Blue Lyra Review, and elsewhere. Find her at her website.