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Rooted: A Novel (Washed in the Blood Tale) Paperback – March 22, 2017
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The Amazon Book Review
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About the Author
Idabel Allen brings over fifteen years of experience as a professional writer and editor to the literary table. She attended the Iowa Writers' Workshop Fiction program and is the author of Headshots, Cursed! My Devastatingly Brilliant Campaign and Rooted. Idabel's books are available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and independent bookstores across this fine land. When not burrowing in the written word, Idabel is generally up to no good with her family, dogs and herd of antagonistic cows.
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In RAN, Idabel Allen works in the literary genre of Southern Gothic, where Faulkner is the preeminent author. This genre, according to Wikipedia, features “… deeply flawed, disturbing, or eccentric characters…. ambivalent gender roles, decayed or derelict settings, grotesque situations, and other sinister events relating to or stemming from… alienation, crime, or violence.” RAN, which is set in rural Tennessee in the 1970s, has all this and more, thanks to the character of Slade Mortimer, who is an angry and selfish punk-rock musician. In RAN, Allen writes so that Sid Vicious meets Yoknapatawpha County.
RAN begins with two deaths. In the first, the sozzled Slade loses control of his speeding car and kills Lucy, a beloved cow that the McQuistons view as a member of the family. In the second, Eleanor, Grover’s saintly wife, dies of a heart attack and Sarah Jane, her granddaughter, feels responsible. These two story lines—the effects of Slade’s abrupt appearance in the McQuiston family and the emotional strum und drang of Sarah Jane as she and Slade wait for Eleanor’s funeral—are the warp and woof of this novel.
The McQuistons are Christian and Christianity provides context for several characters. Grover, for example, says that: “I do God’s will.” Eleanor in letter to Sarah Jane observes: “You will know love as God intends you to.” And the pathetic and guilt-ridden Sarah Jane has this reaction as her neglectful and alcoholic mother is pummeled by a boyfriend: “I watched, but I couldn’t do anything. What could I do? Besides, I had asked God for this. As she was being beat, I knew that my prayer was being answered. ” This, I suppose, goes with the Southern Gothic territory.
Parts of RAN are better than others. I certainly enjoyed reading about Grover’s adventures as a bootlegger and his friendship with Matthew. It was also fun to accompany Slade and Sarah Jane to the Mortimer house. And I enjoyed being with Sarah Jane in her shack. But there is also a lot of bunkum in this book. I suppose that goes with the territory, too.
Gotta say, however, that one character does a volte face near the end of RAN, which didn’t seem plausible. Rounded up.
Rooted is well-written and full of interesting characters. The interplay between the brash, irreverent Slade, the Moonsock residents, and the rest of the McQuiston clan is reliably humorous. I also appreciated the way in which Idabel Allen gradually revealed the family history and how it shaped Grover and influenced the choices he made. Though a bit melodramatic, the novel is engaging and ends on a feel-good note. Idabel Allen is a talented writer with a promising future.
Read this book. You will enjoy it and maybe see a little bit of yourself in at least one of the brilliant characters. Hope to see more from Idabel Allen!
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