In my younger years, I was a bit dismissive of the short story. Why would you choose to read little lit rather than diving into a glorious novel? But once I had kids and my reading hours dwindled, both due to kiddie demands on my time and the inability to keep my eyes open once I snuggled under the doona, I decided to explore short stories. I didn’t have time to finish a novel in an ‘I can hold my head high’ amount of time but I could digest a mini book. And now I am an all embracing reader – novel, novella, short story, I’ll give anything a go!
The seventeen stories in Cate Kennedy’s collection Dark Roots are on the shorter short story side – maybe a dozen pages at most. And yet within these few pages, she manages to create tales of poignancy and humour. A number of the stories explore the idea of loss – loss of life, both that of those close to us but also our own mortality, and loss of our sense of self. I found the first story ‘What thou and I did, Till we loved’, which spoke of the loss of a life partner, achingly beautiful. How could it not be with such a title? And ‘A pitch too high for the human ear’ filled me with pathos in its exploration of the dynamics of a marriage over time. ‘Resize’ covers similar territory, but perhaps a little more heavy handedly, and for this reason, didn’t provoke quite the same response in me.
Side by side with these touching stories are the darkly Dahl-seque ‘The Testosterone Club’ involving lecherous men, revenge and dill cucumbers, and the retributory tales ‘Sea Burial’ and ‘Cold Snap’.which all left me with a smirk upon my face.
Whilst I enjoyed all the stories, perhaps ‘Habit’ is a little too cute in its denouement (won’t expand further for fear of a spoiler!), the title story ‘Dark Roots’ a little cliched in its ‘older woman’ insecurities and ‘Angel’ a little dramatic in its irony.
But these are small quibbles. As an easy and varied read, this is an enjoyable collection. On the Iris and Edie scale, I’ll give it a 4 out of 5.
Are short stories your thing?