cover image Dark Roots

Dark Roots

Cate Kennedy, . . Grove/Black Cat, $13 (182pp) ISBN 978-0-8021-7045-3

Critically acclaimed in Australia, Kennedy made her first stateside splash last year in the New Yorker and now follows that up with this revelatory collection. Set mostly in unnamed Australian locales, the stories are particularly concerned with the plight of women in social arenas where they’re expected to be less than stellar, often for the sake of male egos. “Seizure” chronicles a woman realizing her live-in boyfriend’s emotional selfishness after she witnesses a kind stranger aid an epileptic man. “Wheelbarrow Thief” focuses on a beautiful, intelligent publicist who is reduced to a dinner party accessory by her professor boyfriend. And “The Testosterone Club” is a delicious revenge fantasy spearheaded by a wife who has had enough of her husband choosing his buddies over her. Other highlights include “Angel,” in which a Vietnamese refugee dissects alienation in Australia while striving to take care of a child. The title story is a vivid dissection of the inner turmoil of a 39-year-old woman dating a 26-year-old-man. And the pièce de résistance? That would be “Soundtrack,” an inspired, sublime take on family. Kennedy’s prose walks the line between sparse and lush, and she trusts that her readers welcome well-articulated ideas balanced with reassuring doses of mystery. (Feb.)