What’s Roots And All all about?:
A grandmother and a sister’s death, a small community with an upsurge in the amount of meth dealers/users and traditional folklore all conspire to create a story to send shivers up the spine.
What did I think?:
So far, A Book of Horrors has been a bit of a mixed bag for me. I’ve read a couple of excellent stories and a few mediocre but I was still looking forward to reading something by Brian Hodge, an author I’ve not yet encountered. It starts with two cousins, Dylan (our narrator) and Gina who are returning to their grandmother’s house to attend her funeral and begin sorting out her possessions. Obviously it’s an emotional time for both of them as they recollect happier days growing up and playing in the woods surrounding Grandma Evvie’s property. They decide to pay the neighbour a visit whom they were also fond of and she is pleased to welcome them into her house letting them know that they were their grandmother’s “favourites,” and wouldn’t it have been nice if Shae had also been here. Then oddly she tries to extract a promise from Dylan that:
“don’t you go poking your noses anywhere much off the roads. Those meth people that’ve made such a dump of the place, I hear they don’t mess around.”
This is the first time we get a mention of Shae who was Dylan’s little sister and who disappeared in mysterious circumstances when she was nineteen. All that was found of her at the time was a bloodied scrap of a blouse hanging from some brambles but her body has never been recovered. The two cousins are close friends as well as relatives and enjoy that night reminiscing and looking through photo albums of their childhood. Dylan especially remembers quite vividly the stories that Grandma Evvie used to tell them of the Woodwalker – tales that made his hairs stand on end when Grandma Evvie tells them of the good side of the Woodwalker, who protected the land and gave back to you if you were good to him…. and then the dangers of getting on the wrong side of him:
“It loves most of what grows and hates waste and I guess you could say it pays us back. And makes sure we don’t get forgetful and too full of ourselves. What happens then, if you do? Awful things. Awful, awful things.”
Then the cousins make a shocking and grisly discovery – one that will change Dylan’s life forever and remind him of his “roots.”
This story was hugely enjoyable. I loved the way in which an old folk tale was interspersed with modern day life, bringing an element of the fantastical and definitely sending a shiver or two up the backbone. I admired the way in which many threads of the story like the disappearance of Shae, the Woodlander, the meth gangs, Grandma Evvie’s death and the upheaval of Dylan’s life were all brought together to form a story that was exciting as well as intriguing. And the discovery that the cousins make? Yikes, well I didn’t see THAT one coming! I think any horror or fantasy fan will really enjoy this superb little tale and I look forward to finding out much more about Brian Hodge and his other works. On the small amount I’ve read on the author apparently themes like self-sacrifice are quite important to him. All I can say is that definitely comes across in this short story!
Would I recommend it?:
But of course!
Star rating (out of 5):
NEXT SHORT STORY: The Dunwich Horror by H.P. Lovecraft from the collection The Definitive H.P. Lovecraft