Summary and book reviews of Dark Roots by Cate Kennedy

Dark Roots

by Cate Kennedy

Dark Roots by Cate Kennedy X
Dark Roots by Cate Kennedy
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     Not Yet Rated
  • Paperback:
    Feb 2008, 224 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Lucia Silva

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About this Book

Book Summary

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.

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 it’s 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 isn’t the only thing that’s stuck in her relationship. Each character must make a choice and none is without consequence—even 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.

Dark Roots

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...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
About This Guide

A Grove Press Reading Guide by Barbara Putnam

We hope that these discussion questions will enhance your reading group's exploration of Cate Kennedy's Dark Roots. They are meant to stimulate discussion, offer new viewpoints, and enrich your enjoyment of the book.  More reading group guides and additional information, including summaries, author tours, and author sites for other fine Grove Press titles, may be found on our Web site, www.groveatlantic.com.


Questions for Discussion
  1. "I have been told, both in approval and in accusation, that I seem to love all my characters. What I do in writing of any character is to try to enter into the mind, heart, and skin of a human...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

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).

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Media Reviews

The New York Times - Maud Newton
The stories...are melancholy but deliberate and coolly exact.

San Francisco Chronicle - Irene Wanner
Kennedy's book is uneven. A few of its entries miss the mark. But the majority, by far, are fabulous.

Library Journal
These 17 stories are alternately moving, romantic, deeply sad, and/or funny, with unexpected twists and satisfying conclusions.

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Kennedy's prose walks the line between sparse and lush, and she trusts that her readers welcome well-articulated ideas balanced with reassuring doses of mystery.

The Guardian (UK) - Catherine Taylor
These are precisely observed pieces, deserving of a wide audience.

The Times of London - Kate Saunders
Each [story] is - like all the greatest short stories - a whole world rendered into a bouillon cube. I'm still laughing over "The Testosterone Club", in which a put-upon wife prepares a fitting punishment for the unreconstructed Aussie male.

Sydney Morning Herald - Stephanie Bishop
This warm and tender collection is by turns funny, wise and achingly sad, the stories tracing the fault line between the inner life, riddled with hopes and anxieties, and the constraints of the outer world in which we are forced to act.

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Beyond the Book

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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