Book Review: Manroot by: Anne Steinberg

Rating: 4/5

Publication Date: March 15, 2014

Origins:  From Publicist for Review

Synopsis: In the spring of 1939, Katherine Sheahan and her father, Jesse, are looking for work in the isolated tourist town of Castlewood, Missouri. Jesse gets a job as handyman and Katherine as a maid at a small hotel. Jesse drinks and neglects his work and eventually disappears, abandoning his daughter. Frieda Broom, the hotel Manager, takes Katherine under her wing, telling her stories of her baby that was stolen by gypsies and teaching her about ginseng, the manroot, and other secrets of the foothills. Katherine discovers that she is a natural healer and has the ability to communicate with spirits, a gift she inherited from her Navajo Indian mother.

Katherine becomes deeply drawn to a regular hotel guest, the Honorable Judge William Reardon. Despite him being much older than her and married, Katherine captivates him. As the pair bond over astrology and gardening, Katherine becomes convinced they belong together – her pursuit of him and what flows from that relationship shapes the rest of the novel. Theirs is a union of like-minded souls, but a dangerous dark magic is released. Can their love survive?

Review: Coming to the town of Castlewood, Missouri may have been the best and worst thing to happen to Katherine Sheahan, a girl who is half-Irish and half-Navajo. Her father is a drunk who finally disappears, leaving Katherine to fend for herself. She draws on the teachings of her Navajo mother and grandmother, becoming a healer who can also talk with spirits. She’s also the maid at a small hotel who attracts the notice of a prominent judge, William Reardon. Reardon assuages the weight of his job and his disdain for his barren wife in bottles of alcohol and one night, in Katherine. This is the start of a relationship between Katherine and William which ends in an unexpected way. MANROOT is a story of dualities: violence and tenderness, dark and light, endurance and indifference. I felt for Katherine and all she suffered, both at the hands of her father and at the hands of the townspeople. MANROOT is well-written and entrancing, giving a different perspective on the attitudes of a small town over many decades. There are themes may be difficult for some readers, but they are woven well into the fabric of the story. MANROOT is a haunting tale which will capture the imagination.

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