This is a reviewed copy from the author.
Many have heard of the term “nuclear family.” Without reference to the Hermit Kingdom, it is generally known that collections of nuclear stuff can achieve critical mass with explosive results. Material scatters everywhere. That is what happened in Idabel Allen’s novel Rooted. Readers did not witness this explosion; we will join the decimated family as a group with its fewest members in the beginning chapter of the novel. After the explosion, after a few years, the same scattered material may begin to coalesce. Allen will relate the painful process and problems with this “coming together.” As Allen points out “It all comes from the root. And Grover McQuiston was the root of it all.” (loc56-57).
Grover is an unlovable guy. He is the irascible grandfather, always right, never wrong, and a character who offers an implied threat of physical activity in the event of non-compliance with his desires. He is powerful, a self-made man, and President of the local bank. Eleanor is the long-suffering wife. Readers see immediately that she is resigned to stuff. She will almost always eventually give in to Grover and even support his every decision. “Almost” because when she finds an issue important to her, we have a feeling that she will dig in and assert herself. Although she sounds like a strong anchor that can act as a balance to the naked confrontation style of Grover, don’t get used to her. She will not stay around long although her influence will be of major importance to all characters in this strong character driven novel.
Grover lives in a home that he built on land that his family had owned and occasionally lost for generations. He sees himself as a noble creature, sacrificing his life to rebuild a reputation and financial security from a past tainted by rumor and intolerance. He lives in a home with wife Eleanor and granddaughter Sarah Jane, a relative he does not openly acknowledge. Sarah Jane is the daughter of his dead son, Jacob, and a woman Grover never knew or approved of. There is also his unwelcome aunt Althea and a close friend of Eleanor’s, Josie. This friend doesn’t always live there but Grover thinks she is at the house so much it appears she does, another unwelcome presence. Along with Lucy, the family cow, this is the nuclear family we meet.
And then someone kills Lucy by driving a car into the cow. This is where the family starts the process of reforming. Not all parts/characters come willingly. They have existed for years in other parts of a universe and have their own lives. Coming home to Moonsock will require adjustment and negotiation from all. Moonsock, Tennessee has a well-chosen town name that leaves us not surprised to learn it is small; everyone knows everyone else’s backstory, newly appearing visitors with strange ways are not welcome. Slade was the definition of strange. Other than his magnificent entrance to the story, made by crashing a car into Lucy resulting in injuries sufficient to justify bovine execution; his blue spiked hair, earrings, and repeated attempts to vomit on exiting the wrecked car assured instant non-acceptance by the local population. But Eleanor liked him. She recognized him as the son of her daughter Ellie who had run off with Grover’s best friend Mortimer several years previously. Ellie had disappeared, never to be seen or heard of. After running away with Mortimer, she ran away from Mortimer, abandoning Slade to a life with Mortimer who took his fatherly duties seriously and taught Slade how to be a mortician. When not embalming someone, Slade self-studied music and, abandoning Mortimer, formed a Goth style band called the Roaming Morticians (of course). But Mortimer was dying and just prior to his death sent a letter to Slade indicating Slade had an inheritance if he went home to claim it. The gathering begins.
Readers will be able to appreciate small town, insular, redneck life through the colorful vocabulary Allen allows her characters. I could imagine and assign accents as I read dialogues. Out of all the possible lines that are memorable, I just want to report this one. It is extremely minimal and expresses many different things; despair, sadness, nostalgia, wonder, and amazement. The expression is only used by one character, Sarah Jane, but it is used in many contexts. I stopped to reflect every time Sarah Jane said “Oh boy.”
I will give this a five-star Amazon rating and I have already purchased Headshots available through KU for free or for purchase at USD 0.99. Rooted is not available through KU and sells for USD 3.99. It is worth the price. At the end of Rooted, there is a preview of Cursed: My Devastatingly Brilliant Campaign to Save the Chigg. The preview presents a fascinating YA novel centering on eighth-grade experiences. Scheduled for a November 2017 publication, I can’t find it on Amazon. The author’s webpage does not provide a way to get the book; it does announce a Fall 2017 release date. I will not give up the search. Allen is a very entertaining storyteller.