The short story “Rootbound” explores experiences of rural life, everyday unhappiness, aging, and estrangement in all its forms.
Clementine’s children are grown, moved away, and scarcely heard from, leaving her husband Morley her only company. Morley, a retired oil man, seems uninterested in reconnecting with his wife after years of camp food, shack life, and clandestine cocaine. Although Clementine can retire from her part-time job at the garden centre, she continues working to distract herself from the painful nonentity that is her marriage.
Clementine’s dissatisfaction with her life constantly pulls her into the past – a place more vivid than her present, but just as complex. Often, she skis the familiar, wooded trails on her farm to take refuge from Morley’s silence, and to observe the natural world around her that changes almost imperceptibly with each outing, but changes nonetheless.
Skiing one afternoon, Clementine encounters the body of a mare, presumably dumped over the bank by the Swansons to the North or the Bittners to the East. She stops to ponder the mare’s wasting body each time she enters the woods to ski, and becomes acutely aware of the metaphor and ultimatum nature has given her.
The accompanying personal essay “‘It Takes Most of Our Internal Organs:’ Reflections on Writing,” considers the struggles of writing, and its inspirations. Here, the writer discusses her influences, her experiences of the prairies, her fascination with the human gothic, and the interplay between these things within “Rootbound.”
Faculty Mentor: Jillian Skeffington
Department: English (Honours)