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by Bethany Hagen
Madeline has lived a life of comfort and luxury; however, she has been given little control over her life. Life in the United States is ruled by the rich gentry, and the seventeen-year-old is expected to find a rich husband and run the family estate. Only Madeline has no desire to marry. Her one desire is to attend university.
When one of Madeline’s friends is attacked at a party, Madeline is determined to discover the truth behind it. As Madeline leaves the family estate, she discovers that people are not always what they seem, and the life of the servant class, the Rootless, is not what she envisioned.
As Madeline tries to secretly help the Rootless, she accidently discovers that gentry boy David Dana has secrets of his own. Although she is attracted to him, he is promised to another—but that doesn’t stop Madeline’s heart from wanting.
Soon rumors of war and rebellion break out, and Madeline finds herself in a dangerous web of secrets and lies—and David may be the only person who can help.
Landry Park takes the reader into a world where slavery still exists. The gentry want to keep the Rootless under their control, and anyone who tries to help the Rootless have a better life is seen as a threat to the Gentry. Madeline is trapped between her desire for a comfortable life and her desire to help the Rootless. As the reader enters the world of the Rootless, there are some graphic scenes of sickness and death.
Although the story is interesting, Madeline’s desire to have her comfortable life and her unwillingness to take necessary risks make her less likable. The ending has a few surprises that will delight the reader. However, because of the disturbing themes of death, slavery, and marriage, this book is not suitable for younger audiences.
- When Madeline and her mother are discussing marriage, her mother tells her she can’t marry Jamie because he’s too poor. Madeline thinks, “Jamie wasn’t interested in marriage. At least, not with me or any other girl.”
- Madeline reflects on a childhood friend who, “dared a servant boy to kiss her on the mouth and then watched without emotion when the boy and his family were removed to a distant farm.”
- Madeline explains that “gentry boys and girls dated—and often did more than just that—before their debuts, but strictly speaking, both parties were expected to arrive at the marriage bed untainted and untouched.”
- Madeline’s father has a mistress. Madeline’s mother and father fight and the mother yells, “How dare you skulk around with Christine when it was my family’s money that kept your precious estate alive? My money is the reason you didn’t marry that whore and then you went and wasted it all away.”
- Madeline has a crush on David and when he looks at her she thinks, “I felt the ghost of his kiss on my lips, felt the ghost of all the kisses I had craved and desired, and all the kisses I had yet to dream of, and then his mouth parted slightly and I wondered if he was dreaming of those phantom kisses, too.”
- At her debut, Madeline kisses her date, Jude. “He took my whole face in his hands, so gently that his fingertips tickled my jaw, and kissed me harder, his mouth firm and warm. It felt nice, in a distant, premeditated sort of way. I wished I was kissing David.” Later as they are dancing, Jude kisses her again.
- Madeline discovers her friend, “pressed against the wall, kissing someone with ferocious intensity.”
- A character describes how, “no matter how many women I bedded or how much I drank, I felt as if this life were tenuous.”
- In the beginning of the book, a girl was attacked and the girl’s screams are heard. Madeline tries to discover the truth behind the “attack.” Later in the story, Madeline discovers that Cara was attacked by her mother. “She hit me and I fell into the brambles nearby. She hit me again and again.”
- A character talks about when he realized the servant class, the Rootless, had terrible lives. He talks about how the penalty for stealing gentry trash is death. “And the bodies strung up on the estates numbered in the hundreds.”
- There is a battle between the military and the Rootless. David describes his experience. “. . . I’ll tell you what it’s like to watch the man next to you blown to bits and to see your friend’s hand shot off by an armor-piercing round and to have a mouth so full of char and dirt that you can’t taste food for weeks.”
- In a later scene, David describes the battle with the Rootless. “There was one man, good as dead, holding his innards and trying to crawl to safety. I thought he was an Easterner, so I left him behind. But when we collected the bodies, I recognized him. He was one of ours and I had left him there to dies like a beast in the mud.”
- When Madeline’s father threatens to make a child swallow “gibbet food,” a radioactive tablet that will kill him, the Rootless attack. Madeline’s father is attacked and, “they [the rootless] pinned him down and forced the gibbet food inside his mouth for several minutes. Not enough to kill him, but enough to burn his mouth. Enough to give him severe radiation poisoning and probably cancer. . . the lower half of his face was unrecognizable—dark brown with blisters covering his lips and tongue. Bloody ulcers were beginning to form at the corners of his mouth. . .”
Drugs and Alcohol
- Throughout the book, the characters are seen smoking opium. In one scene, Madeline talks about how the Gentry boys, “spent most of their days playing golf or tennis while working their way through hundreds of dollars of whisky and opium.”
- When a girl is attacked, a doctor gives her sedatives.
- At parties, the characters drink whisky and spiced wine.
- Cara says she feels “like shit.”
- Hell is used several times. For example, when Madeline accuses a boy of hurting Cara, he asks, “Why the hell do you think I would do something like that?”