I just finished reading Bloodroot by Amy Greene. It’s one of those books that is going to stick with me for a long time. Some of the passages are so beautiful I had to stop to re-read them, and I’m not usually that kind of reader. I put Bloodroot on my reading list because reviewer Karen Valby at Entertainment Weekly gave it an A, saying ” Greene, who grew up in the Smoky Mountains, captures what poverty looks and feels and sounds like.” The reviewer failed to mention how Greene describes the smells of poverty. This book is positively pungent. We’re told one house reeks of dead rats and sulphur, and quite a few of the characters themselves are pretty rank. I was actually grateful that I only had to read about the smells rather than experience them myself. I guess your ability to imagine strong odors will affect your experience of the writing.
Bloodroot follows several generations of a poor family living in the mountains of eastern Tennessee. The Lambs seem cursed to repeat lives of intense sorrow and devastating loss, but each new generation grabs at life, loving deeply if not wisely. I’m not sure if the average twenty-something reader will be able to appreciate Bloodroot. I know I wouldn’t have understood it when I was younger. I remember how I looked at my parents and wondered how they could have settled for such small, imperfect lives. When you’re young, everything seems possible. And you have all that energy. These days just getting out of bed seems like a minor victory. Bloodroot is a book by an author that understands how that feels. This is Amy Greene’s first novel, and she looks very young in her photo. I wonder how she got so wise.
I have one complaint. The cover of Bloodroot bugs me. It depicts a girl stretched out on the ground in a lovely green and gold clearing, but her back is arched like she’s lying on a bump. Maybe that’s symbolic or something, but it just looks uncomfortable. My back hurts just looking at it.
Last night’s Glee was also about life’s realities and lost dreams. I watched it because a) I really like Neil Patrick Harris and b) I wanted to check out Jonathan Groff after all the Newsweek controversy over his ability to play a straight character. Harris was great, and Groff was fine. I didn’t see anything in Groff’s performance that rang false. The bonus for me was the Les Miserables song and audition, since Les Mis is my favorite musical. Oh, and I can’t believe how much Idina Menzel looks like Lea Michele. At first I thought Michele was playing her own mom in age makeup. Now, to those who’ve seen Glee more than twice this season, this resemblance is no surprise. Me, I like a little surprise now and then.
I have to point out that Neil Patrick Harris playing Jean Valjean is completely ridiculous. Maybe it’s meant to be funny. Valjean is a man with incredible physical strength, able to lift a loaded cart off a man trapped underneath, able to carry Marius through the sewers. If Glee wants to bring Harris back, I suggest they show Bryan Ryan on opening night of Les Miserables attempting to carry Marius and getting a hernia.