Lev Butts Lists the Best of Self-Publishing VI

Well, it’s been a bit since I last posted about my ongoing countdown of the best self-published books I’ve found. So lets get right to it.

Rooted- Idabell Allen

Pick your own cover! Personally, I like them both,
though the punk rock cow really speaks to me..
I have to admit that when I first read this book, I had no idea that it was self-published. I met Idabell Allen at a conference in New Orleans in September of last year. She was presenting a paper on the podcast S-Town (and if you haven’t heard that podcast, do yourself a favor and start downloading it now) and mentioned in passing her own novel about a misfit in a small Southern town, which she described as “Sid Vicious stuck in rural Tennessee.”

Being a huge Sex Pistols fan from all the way back in high school, and being a Southern lit scholar since grad school, obviously this was an idea I found all too intriguing.

Total punk and rule-breaker right there.
During the luncheon, she and I found ourselves at the same table, and we fell to talking about our own writing habits and interests.

A few weeks later, I was surprised to find a copy of the book in my office mailbox. I enjoyed reading it so much, I added it to the book list for my upcoming Southern literature course, and asked Ms. Allen if she’d like to Skype in and discuss her book with the class. It was during our preparations for that presentation that I learned the book was self-published. 

Rooted tells the story of Grover McQuiston, an irascible old man and genuine son of a bitch who, in his twilight years all but owns the small Tennessee town of Moonsock, but who is as isolated now as he ever was as a poor no-account bootlegger in his youth. When the story opens, he is trying to marry off his alleged granddaughter, a young girl named Sarah Jane and the daughter of a dysfunctional alcoholic who claims Grover’s son got her pregnant before dying in Vietnam, before she embarrasses him further by having an affair with an older woman. That Sarah Jane is not gay makes no difference to Grover, who only cares what the town gossips believe.

Into this turmoil, another alleged grandchild arrives in town: Slade Mortimer, aka The Roaming Mortician and the lead singer of the New York punk band Mortified. Slade is in town to receive his inheritance from his father’s estate,but he will have to prove first that he truly is the son of Grover’s best and oldest friend who ran away with Grover’s underage daughter more than twenty years ago. 

Grover finds himself having to face his darkest secrets and his shameful past as he struggles to find a way to understand these two estranged grandchildren, bury his wife, and accept that he is not in control of anyone, much less himself.

The book is genuinely funny, evoking the styles of Faulkner, Welty, McCullers, and O’Connor without descending into imitation. Allen has her own distinct voice and enough working knowledge of both the New York punk scene of the 1970’s and rural Southern life, to make her settings believable without sounding didactic. Equal parts laugh-out-loud funny (Grover’s staid insistence on propriety is the perfect foil to Slade’s barely controlled anarchy and vice versa) and heart-breakingly tender (I dare you to keep a dry eye during the denouement), this book is my current favorite work of modern Southern literature.

The students loved it as well, and like me, they had no idea it was independently published until thy discussed the book with Allen in class. 

I am very much looking forward to Allen’s next novel, and very happy with having it as the first self-published novel I ever taught in a college class.

Give it a read and let me know what you think about it in the comments, and let Allen know what you think of it in the reviews section of her Amazon page.


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