Tuesday, September 13, 2016
Deborah J. Brannon, Guest Reviewer: Roses and Rot by Kat Howard
Hello all, I have a guest review to share today from SurLaLune reader, Deborah J. Brannon. Thanks for sharing with us, Deborah!
Roses and Rot
Author: Kat Howard
Publisher: Saga Press; 1st edition (May 17, 2016)
Print length: 320 pages
Roses and Rot is a knife in the dark, and a comforting embrace after that sudden welling of blood. That sounds melodramatic, but it can’t be - not with this book. Roses and Rot is Kat Howard’s debut novel and it is a paean to survival, to thriving, to fairy tales.
You think you know this story - and maybe you do, but only because you’ve lived it. Two sisters grow up under the cruel ministrations of a manipulative, self-centered mother. The older sister escapes and goes away to school, leaving the younger sister unprotected and alone. They lose each other for seven years, only to find their way back together in a magical, mysterious land: Melete. Melete is a prestigious retreat for artists of every kind. Melete is a Greek Muse and a word that means “contemplation.” Melete is the perfect place for two sisters to find each other again and then to find their own voices and their own successes.
Imogen, the elder sister, is a writer. Marin is a dancer. They both bear deep wounds from the psychological, physical, and emotional abuse inflicted upon them by their mother. Some are obvious; some lurk to be stumbled over later. Melete encompasses the same complexity: a prestigious and intense artists’ retreat on the surface, Melete actually serves as the feeding ground for the Faerie Host. The creative focus and passionate spark of artists sustain the Fae, and each year the most promising Melete Fellow is selected to pay that tithe. They are taken into Faerie for seven years, alone and plumbed for their deepest passions, before being cast back into our world. Their reward is guaranteed success in whatever creative endeavors they pursue.
This is a book about how we help and hurt each other. It’s about the font of creativity, and paying for our choices. It’s about parents failing children, and people finding ways in camaraderie to build each other up. It’s about people who want to be less human and creatures who want to be more. It’s about what happens when we fail, and what happens when we don’t.
It’s a thorned rose aching in your throat when you find yourself in its pages - as many of us childhood survivors will.
It’s a story about facing down the tithe, and this is no Tam Lin.
Kat Howard’s Roses and Rot is well worth your time, as she builds compelling characters and weaves an enticing setting in contemporary rural America. She intelligently explores mature themes and the artist’s working life, while still evoking the wonder of creation and salvation of loving friendships. You’ll find her story doesn’t easily let you go. You’ll be drawn back to Melete, back to Imogen and Marin, their friends and enemies, more than once. I’d say I’m sorry - but I’m not.
Deborah J. Brannon
(Deborah received a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley.)