Dark Roots

Dark Roots by Cate Kennedy

Review by Jennifer Gates, Southport Branch

Remember the feeing of exhilaration when you’ve sat up all night to finish a great novel? It’s possible to capture that same feeling with Australian author Cate Kennedy’s “Dark Roots” short story collection. This varied collection, published in 2006, comprises 17 stories, each less than 10 pages. You will be immersed in a world of acutely observed detail of people’s lives, stand with them at crisis points and travel with them as they teeter on the brink of an imposing fate.

“Dark Roots” has an array of authentic characters, not necessarily likeable but characters with whom we can identify: real people with flaws, contradictions, and emotions.

These 17 stories manipulate our emotions, alternating between sadness, surprise, romance, and humour. Reading “Dark Roots” for a second time, I still laughed at The Testosterone Club where a neglected wife executes revenge on her chauvinist husband by pickling jars of “virility-sapping cucumbers.”

We feel overwhelming sadness for Rebecca whose lover, Beth lies in a coma after being hit by a taxi in What thou and I did, till we loved. Kennedy’s ability to stretch time in this piece with little dialogue is mesmerising. 

Cold Snap reveals a dark undercurrent of revenge. Interwoven with a theme of environmental ruin, Billy, a countrylad meets a city woman and their opposing views lead this story towards an unexpected outcome.

It is not surprising that Kennedy has won acclaim for “Dark Roots”. Her ability to concisely characterise as well as to focus each story on a single incident within a limited time span deserves praise.

Definitely include this collection as a “definite” on your Top Ten reading list!