Following her American debut in The New Yorker, Australian Cate Kennedy delivers a mesmerizing collection of award-winning stories that daringly travel to the deepest depths of the human psyche. In this sublimely sophisticated and compulsively readable collection, Kennedy opens up worlds of finely observed detail to explore the collision between simmering inner lives, the cold outside world, and the hidden motivations that propel us all to act.
In just a few pages, Kennedy captures entire lives, expertly documenting the risks and compromises made in both forging and escaping relationships. Her stories are populated by people on the brink: whether its a woman floundering with her own loss and emotional immobility as her lover lies in a coma; a neglected wife who cannot convince her husband of the truth about his two brutish, shamelessly libidinous friends; or a married woman who comes to realize that her too-tight wedding ring isnt the only thing thats stuck in her relationship. Each character must make a choice and none is without consequenceeven the smallest decisions have the power to destroy or renew, to recover and relinquish.
Devastating, evocative, and richly comic, Dark Roots deftly unveils the traumas that incite us to desperate measures and the coincidences that drive our lives. This arresting collection introduces a new master of the short story.
It's a slippery slope, once you start on it, once you've
ignored that knock in the engine for long enough and it starts to miss
occasionally as you careen down some hill dazedly gripping the wheel.
At the beach the sun comes out and the sea glitters to the horizon, and Paul is content to sit and watch the surfers for a while. When you're twenty-six, obviously that's what you do, because it's still within the radar range of things you might conceivably try yourself. Then he goes and buys fish and chips and you eat them at a picnic table, everything dazzling and warm. But once that poison has started, once you're committed to giving yourself a measured dose of it every day, nothing's going to be enough. You have traded in your unselfconsciousness for this double-visioned state of standing outside yourself, watchful and tensed for exposure. You will despise yourself for every mouthful and for your insatiable hunger, and you will despise yourself more...
Cate Kennedy's writing is sharp; her details are meaningful but not meandering, her dialogue spot-on and funny but also totally believable, the plot lines dramatic, but so well crafted that your trust never wavers ..... Think of the rush you get from racing to the end of an up-all-night novel – except there are seventeen of these, each less than ten pages long. If you're pressed for time, you can't really do better than one of these before bed. And if you're not, then you've got a great weekend ahead of you.
(Reviewed by Lucia Silva).
Full Review (658 words).
This may be Cate Kennedy's first collection, but she's won prizes for her short fiction since 1994. One of her stories lost several Australian competitions and then in 2006 won the biggest prize of them all: publication in The New Yorker. Unfortunately, short stories fall somewhere just above poetry and below everything else in terms of their ability to generate sales, which is painful news for the short-story-lover -- and even more devastating for the short story writer. As Kennedy lamented in a 2006 interview with the Australian newspaper The Age, "[Editors] say 'I love this, but I can't get it past the accountants'. That worries me, I don't want that to happen. Even an editor at a literary publishing house ...
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