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Root Worker Book Review

Phyllis Rhodes

I thought The Root Worker by Rainelle Burton was a great debut novel!  Burton's style of writing is vivid!  I felt great pain for Ellen, an 11-year-old African-American girl, as I read about her abuse and long-suffering in a totally dysfunctional environment. It was extremely sad to see that most of the physical, verbal, and mental abuse came from her immediate family, including her mother.  The mothers reliance on the root workers remedies to solve her marital problems, insecurities, and overall unhappiness exacerbates Ellens misery because the root worker tends to involve Ellen as either the cause of the ills or part of the cure.  At the urging of the Root Worker, Ellen is subjected to illogical arguments that test her Christian faith, more sexual abuse, and ingestion of ungodly concoctions.

Ellen's search for solace forces her into an alternate reality---I suppose this can be viewed as a mode of self-defense.  Outsiders view her as peculiar and ostracize her even more.  Most of the adults in the world tend to turn a blind eye to the outward physical abuse of this impoverished black child.  Because she has no friends, she invents Clarissa whom she confides her deepest thoughts.   Luckily, she is befriended and rescued by a neighbor and things look up.

The novel is told through the eyes of Ellen and I found it a little hard to follow at times, especially when defining relationships of some of the key characters and their backgrounds.  There was lack of closure with some characters and I was left wanting to know more about their fate.  Overall, it was an enjoyable read.

Nubian Circle Rating:  3.5 Stars