When author Rhonda Tibbs told me about Growing Concerns: An Eco-Horror Anthology edited by Alex Hurst, I was more than intrigued. Halloween being my favorite holiday where dressed as a witch I scare all of the neighborhood children and shriek at the top of my lungs while touring haunted houses, I knew this was a must read. If looking for fear in the form of words on a page, not an easy task for an author I might add, Growing Concerns, a short story anthology which makes one view plants, flowers, and soil in a whole new phosphorescent light should be the next book added to your reading list.
Beginning with Leahey’s “The Wisteria,” the “hook” begins with the bitter conversation of a married couple:
Charles leaned out the back door and pointed an accusatory finger, “Dammit, Gia, look at this!”
It was obviously my fault. I had no idea what he was talking about, but still, it was clearly my fault, “What is it Charlie?”
My husband’s scowl twisted his handsome face into an ugly mask. He hated being called Charlie. I liked to pretend it just slipped out but really, I did it just to annoy him. (Loc 62 of 4094)
Thus, the tone of a decaying marriage set the stage against a backdrop of full of life (literally) purple blooming wisteria. So, I can now with all certainty type, any notion of planting wisteria near our own deck in the hopes of a shade canopy have withered.
Furthermore, reading the tales of these devout gardeners made me second guess any thought I ever had of joining a garden club. In Magas’ “Journal 6 of 8: Techniques in Grafting,” gardening takes on a new level of commitment, “He bled a little where his scalp split, but blood is good. The plants like blood (Loc 382 of 4094). . . It’s a strange realization to come to- finding that you feel more for a dying plant than you do for a dying human being” (Loc 487-8 of 4094).
In addition, the vivid descriptions in Cady’s “Those Were Days of Roses,” enchants all of a reader’s senses:
The front lawn yawned open like a bloated black tongue, thick tufts of black and green weeds spiking out of oozy quicksand and steaming black mud, the hiss of snakes and the gurgle of swamp gas as a slow, foul breeze blew out of the innards of the estate . . ..” (Loc 2339 of 4094).
Growing Concerns, beyond a shadow of a doubt, would have matured to a five out of five rating from me if it were not for the missing articles sprinkled throughout the anthology as well as incorrect verb tenses as in “choose” (Loc 893 of 4094) instead of “chose.”
Nevertheless, for the purposes of book club, tomato pie comprised of “. . . late-planted heirlooms. Followed by sauteed bell peppers and squash, white corn, and a fresh mint tea” (Loc 3594 of 4094) would be sure to satisfy the herbivore within us all. However, bear in mind, a restful night’s sleep after such a feast may not come to fruition.