By: Idabel Allen
“It all comes from the root. And Grover McQuiston was the root of it all.”
My mother always says, “your roots give you wings.” While that may be true, for me, the roots in this story serve another purpose altogether. The shared roots of the McQuiston family give them a communal tap on crazy.
Grover McQuiston, Allen’s main character, IS the root of his family. He’s the root of their problems; the root of their secrets; the root of their hatred and the root of their neuroses. And, for 99% of the book, he’s the root of all evil.
First, let me tell you what I like about this book:
The author, Idabel Allen—in very few pages—drew the character of McQuiston with no ambiguity. I knew who he was and what he was immediately. I’ve known men just like him, in my life. Strong, large and in charge; meaner than a s***house rat and, just a little bit crazy. Respected because he’s feared. Feared because he’s earned it.
The author brought McQuiston to life for me. The same could be said of all the characters. There was little flourish needed or offered. Her characters are tangible and relatable. Weird. But, real.
Allen’s character, “Aunt Althea” is my Aunt Sis. A firecracker and a kitten all wrapped up together. Allen had to have spent some time on my Aunt Sis’ front porch to have written her so well.
Her imagery is also spot on. She drew a picture of a family farm that lived and breathed for me. I pictured the white farmhouse with the sprawling farm lands behind and I could smell the manure and hear the women laugh as they snapped peas on the porch behind white railing. I felt the breeze that moved the corn around on its stalks. This brought home to me some very real and enjoyable emotions and memories. In this, she did an excellent job.
Also, as silly as it may sound, I liked the cover. I believe it was done by: Kimberly Fahey. Once I started reading the book, the cover made sense and made me laugh out loud.
Now, let me tell you what I did not like:
Characters and story-lines were introduced…awkwardly. It’s hard to give examples without spoilers. But, let me try:
One character has been missing from the main story for decades. DECADES. Yet, just happens to show up, out-of-the-blue (like a couple of others) to bring to a head some family drama and spill some secrets (just like some of the others and all in the same 12-hour period). PERHAPS, with a little more build up (WHY NOW?) it might not have been so…jarring. I don’t know. As it happened, it was as if a magician pulled her out of a hat and dumped her in the story because he didn’t know what to do with her next. It was unbelievable and… awkward.
Now that I think about it, the same could be said for ALL the characters introduced into the story, after those who lived on the farm.
Once things got rolling, it was like a boulder rolling down a hill crushing everything in its path. Don’t get me wrong. I understand the concept of building tension and then resolving issues. However, there was very little actual build-up of tension. Everything before the resolution was a little too…ambiguous(?)…too bland. Think of a roller coaster with no apparent upswings, no hills to climb, no rises. You’re just riding around—for a very short time—on the flat boring coaster tracks watching the scenery and then, all-of-a-sudden there’s a cliff you weren’t expecting. The drop-off lasts for just a few heartbeats, if that, and then it’s over and you’re rolling back into the station wondering, “that’s it?”.
Five, maybe six different secrets/issues/problems/challenges between as many as seven to eight different relationships were faced, defeated and lives were changed in just a chapter or so. While I sometimes enjoy succinct writing…this was a little too laconic. Slam-bam, Thank You ma’am. Too much. Too quick. Too short. I felt like I’d been gang raped by a bunch of leprechauns and then left to clean up before church.
Look, I’m not trying to be crude or cruel. The story has good bones. I think had the author focused on just one issue—there were plenty to choose from—and built her story around that ONE family secret, it could have been amazing. As it was, the story was all over the place. It was unfocused and unrefined. It was roller-coaster jarring without the excitement and thrills. Instead, it was just kind of painful and boring.
That said, the author has talent. See Above^. She needs focus and restraint, patience and a little bit of experience with roller coasters and she’ll be great.