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The Root Worker. (fiction reviews).

The Root Worker by Rainelle Burton The Overlook Press, June 2001, $24.95, ISBN 1-585-67140-1

Looking through the eyes of eleven-year-old Ellen, the central character of The Root Worker, her world is full of people in her home and community who are robbing her of the only experience she owns--childhood.

The Root Worker is set in Detroit, Michigan and exposes the dark secrets of Ellen, her mother "the Woman," her father "The Husband," her oldest brother, James, and the town's voodoo priestess. Ellen speaks to the reader through her imaginary friend Clarissa, which allows the reader to look at the destruction of her spirit because of the sexual, mental and physical abuse she endures. This private hell keeps Ellen imprisoned until the mysterious "cila lady" finds her.

Ironically, the elements that entrapped Ellen are used to liberate her. The turn of events in the novel compels the reader to continue reading, in spite of what Ellen is experiencing.

Rainelle Burton interweaves African American folklore with religious rumor in a moving and often suspenseful novel that borders on social commentary. Readers may find the bluntness of this storytelling overwhelming, as the details are often disturbing. Burton brilliantly dances on the border of the grotesque to allow the characters' anguish and innocence to seep into the reader's pores. And, above all, the words Burton chooses for Ellen stay with the reader.

Michelle Gipson is the Director of Advertising for Black Issues Book Review magazine.
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Copyright 2001, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Review
Author:Gipson, Michelle
Publication:Black Issues Book Review
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Nov 1, 2001
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