The Importance of Good Roots, by Richard M. Grove
SandCrab Books, 2013, pp.81 pbk. ISBN: 978-1-897475-97-3
This is a delightful book. Rather unusual in that it presents the reader with poetry, short stories and a novella under the one beautifully designed cover. By the time I had finished this little gem I had almost forgotten about computers, cell phones and the incessant invasion of twenty first century hype. Not that the offerings in this book are old fashioned or set in an earlier period, far from it, more that they concentrate and explore timeless themes.
The Importance of Good Roots is a calm, peaceful read concerned with people's lives, how they love, feel, are hurt by others and how they can forgive others, even after being unwilling victims. Grove has woven very serious emotional themes together with deep philosophical insights to produce an excellent work of fiction. He insists that the works in this book are indeed ninety nine percent fiction. This maybe so but it cannot be denied Grove has a more than casual interest in suicide, death and cemeteries. “One story revolves around a two person, post-funeral conversation about a recently deceased friend and the motivations that propelled his life. The reader is left with the ambiguity of whether or not the deceased character committed suicide.” (p. xiii) Having said that I must add there is nothing macabre or pathological about these subjects as Grove writes about them. Actually some of the pieces in the book reflect Grove's rather quirky sense of humour - you'll have a good laugh and shed a tear almost at the same time!
Years ago my writing teacher taught me to leave personal philosophies out of fiction writing. People want a good read not a lecture from a writer on a soap-box he insisted. Grove's greatest achievement in this book, in my opinion, is to combine the philosophical aspects of forgiveness, the fallibility of our memories and implications of suicide to make a wonderful fictional read without the reader feeling like they are being lectured and sold a “holier than thou' package on how they should live their lives. To be able to do this is the mark of a great writer, to produce the artless art of fiction. Grove does this remarkably well.
The eighty page book has a preface, a dozen poems, a couple of short stories and the novella itself The Importance of Good Roots, which is followed by a brief biographical page. Richard Grove, Tai to his friends, was born in Ontario, Canada and is an artist, writer, photographer and publisher. He is President of the Canada Cuba Literary Alliance and Founding President of the Brighton Arts Council.
I'm not going to discuss the stories or poems in any detail in this short review as I do not want to give away any of the sometimes surprising endings. Suffice to tempt the prospective reader with a few lines that I find exquisite, The freshness of June wafted in the trees. Numb banality hung like a heavy humidity on a hot August afternoon. From Chapter 2, Don't Let Go of The Pole (p. 47) Or from the poem, The Chosen One (p. 38)
You are the chosen one.
Life drains from
your still pulsing neck
into dinted tin pan
splashed to thin black pigs.
Hot life to squeals of delight.
Themes of life and death are never far from Grove's penetrating pen and insight, such as in the short story, What Could Have Been What Might Have Been. This story taps into an almost universal collective unconscious regarding the theme “would have, should have, could have”. Holy crappers Mark, let's cool it. We're both a bit edgy considering what just brought us here after all this time. I'm pretty flipped out about Billy being dead too. Heck Billy was like a brother to both of us. As Billy would have said, “Time to chill man”. (p. 23)
I thoroughly recommend this slim, rather eccentric, combined- genre-work, particularly if you like to chill-out with a good fictional read.