The Cheater Loses Again

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     Ever imagine being kidnapped by a skeleton made out of bones and wisteria vines? Well that happened to an angry and mean person named Charles. Having an affair and cheating on one’s wife some way or another seems to come back and haunt a person. “The Wisteria”* by Donna A. Leahey is an eco-horror story filled with wonder and excitement. An eco-horror story is “…a documentary dealing with the possible disastrous ecological consequences of human activity” (Wikipedia). “The Wisteria” is a story that definitely surprises one and can even make one’s heart rate rise as one continues to read waiting to find out what is going to happen next. 
      There is tension in the beginning of the story as married Charles and Gia are fighting over the wisteria vines on their house. Wisteria are flowering plants that run up stalks. These are thick and long vines that are starting to take over the house and destroy the siding. Gia said in regard to her husband, “Beauty is only skin deep, but handsome is even more shallow” (1). This quote stuck out to me and made me ask the question, does Gia even love her husband anymore? Charles yells and curses at Gia constantly. Gia wanted to pry up the deck so she and Charles could cut the vines and roots beneath the deck. There is foreshadowing in the text as Charles said to Gia, “Leave the goddamned deck alone” (2)! Charles tells Gia this because that is where he buried Melissa whom he murdered. 
As the story progresses, we see that Gia is more in love with her dog Roo than she is with her husband. This is also foreshadowing because Gia is more worried about saving her dog than she is in saving her husband at the end of the story. We know that Charles does not like Roo because he shoved Roo aside with the side of his foot. Charles has a cat named Snowbelle. Gia does not like Charles’ cat because it urinated in her $250 shoes.  
The next morning Gia wakes up early and decides to go out on the deck, relax, and drink some coffee. Charles will not be back till late at night due to a busy day at work. Gia lets Roo and Snowbelle into the backyard. Gia begins thinking about the past and how well she and Charles enjoyed being around each other. Gia starts thinking about all the women Charles went to school with over the years. These women fell in love with Charles just as she did. One woman that stands out is Melissa. Gia is right in believing that Charles had an affair with Melissa. Charles had a baby with Melissa as well. Charles then decided to kill both Charles and the baby so Gia could never find out. Charles buries Melissa under the deck that he built by the house. He also brought the little wisteria cuttings home and planted them right next to Melissa’s grave. Over the course of five years as the vines grew, the vines started receiving blood supply from the corpse of Melissa.
Gia all of a sudden hears a muffled meow and angrier howl. Snowbelle is trapped in the wisteria vines under the deck. Gia starts cutting the vines with the clippers and notices the liquid coming from the vines was dark, thick, and red as blood. This is beautiful visual imagery that reminds the reader how rich blood is. The blood also symbolizes life in the vines. Snowbelle ends up dying due to at least three puncture wounds from the vines in her belly.
After Snowbelle’s death, Roo ends up in Gia’s and Charles’ bedroom. Roo is crying for help, and eventually Gia is able to open the door to the bedroom. Roo escapes three vines that were able to puncture the screen in the room. Snowbelle dying from the vines and Roo escaping the vines both foreshadow the outcomes of Charles and Gia later in the story.
Gia finally decides it is time to start cutting all of these wisteria vines because they are out of control, and she is scared. Charles is still not back from work. She uses clippers and cuts multiple vines. Gia said the scene looked like a murder scene due to all of the blood. She then decides to start cutting through the deck with a saw. As sunlight hits the earth and vines that have not seen sunlight for five years, (hence five years since Charles buried Melissa) bones started coming out of the sun-warmed earth. A skeleton finally formed as the wisteria vines put all of the bones together.
The skeleton was Melissa who was looking for Charles. Gia finally realized that Charles did lie to her regarding Melissa. Melissa grabs a hold of Gia and Roo with her vines. Gia and Roo fight for their lives because they are terrified. Gia grabs hold of a sturdy pole and is able to start clipping vines off of her body. Charles eventually returns to the house, and Melissa’s attention turns towards Charles. This allows for Gia and Roo to return back into the house safely because Gia is able to use the clippers in her pocket and cut the wisteria vines off of her and Roo. Now Melissa has full control of Charles, and there is no way he is escaping. Melissa and Charles sink down into the ground and Charles’ wedding ring is left sitting alone in the dirt. I believe this symbolizes that Charles and Gia are no longer married together.
The Wisteria” eco-horror story contained foreshadowing and action packed events that kept the reader engaged with the reading. Charles was mean to Gia and did not treat her with respect. Charles also cheated on Gia with Melissa and had a baby with Melissa. He murdered both of them so Gia could never find out about the affair. People more often than not who are not truthful tend to lose in the end. In this story, Charles, who is the cruel husband and cheater, loses in the end. Gia can now enjoy her life with her dog and hopefully find a new husband that will treat her with the respect she deserves.
By Brad Groleau
I am a Division II baseball player and enjoy being around friends in my free time.
*”The Wisteria” may be found in the short story anthology Growing Concerns.

Rasputin’s Shadow Book Club

Everything turned into a blur of claws and swings and shouts and punches until Maxim felt something warm in his hands, something he was absolutely compelled to squeeze until his hands met each other in the middle, and when clarity returned to his eyes, he saw Pyotr’s eyeless, bloodied face turn a livid purple as he snapped the man’s neck. (4)

If the above excerpt taken from Raymond Khoury’s Rasputin’s Shadow does not seduce you, I am not sure what will.  This historical fiction novel, ripe with espionage, intrigue, and vivid characterizations may turn even the most devoted admirer of memoirs (like myself) into a defector.  Having to keep this novel hidden between readings from my hub, a lover of spy fiction,  I embraced not only the complex storyline and subplots, but also the no-holds-barred descriptions:

Despite a skull that was so pulverized it looked like it had been made out of plasticine before some giant baby had squashed it out of shape, it was still clear that we were looking at a white male adult with dark, short hair, somewhere in his thirties and in good shape, at least before the fall.  (23)

The triple-XL Weyland Enterprises T-shirt stretched against the folds of his wobbling flesh as he grabbed the menu and started eating the entire thing with his eyes.  (67)

Need examples of visual imagery for a class you may be teaching?  Look no further . . .  Rasputin’s Shadow definitely exemplifies the “how to” for showing versus telling in writing.

Hoping for the presence of machismo in this novel?  Well, readers, you have a plethora of agents and hostiles from which to choose.  My favorite, of course, is Reilley, point man on the investigation with a generous sprinkling of sensitivity in regards to his four-year-old son Alex.  Because of him, I may just forgo the country omelet for the garden omelet as he does at IHOP.

For the purposes of book club, though, a variety of food choices may be necessary in order to represent the different cultures in this novel.  Perhaps, a medley of Russian pastries with shots of the Sledgehammer’s preferred brand of vodka as well as Korean pastries with green tea (but definitely pass on the poisonous vino) in order to encourage discussion over Rasputin’s Shadow.