Rootless by Krystle Zara Appiah starts out with Sam racing home because his worst suspicions came true: Efe, his wife and the main character, left him and their daughter Olivia. She’s not answering her phone and Sam grows more impatient by the minute. The story goes back to when Efe was still a teen and met Sam. Though they had been friends for years, nothing really happened between them though it was obvious that something was there between them. Their relationship didn’t evolve until they were in their 20s and both in relationships. They essentially cheated on their respective partners with each other. Sam had always been in love with Efe and was more than ecstatic when they finally got together.
Sam envisioned having his own family with Efe, in hopes of building what he didn’t have. His mother left him when he and his sister Phoebe were young, leaving his father Ken as his parental figure. He dreamed of having his own complete little family with Efe to fill the void left by his mother. He wasn’t exactly quiet or shy about his goals, but Efe wasn’t too keen on the idea and Sam hoped that would change. When Efe eventually ends up pregnant, Sam is over the moon but Efe is not. She’s ready to consider other options when Sam convinces her to keep the baby and fulfill his dream with empty promises of helping her and being by her side. Unfortunately, those promises remained empty as Efe clearly suffers from postpartum depression with little to no help from Sam with Olivia as he’s been working nonstop.
Common Themes + Opinions:
For Efe, her journey was about figuring out who she was outside of the cultural/societal expectations that were imposed on her. She was expected to study and pursue a career in science or math – something to highlight her intelligence – but it didn’t interest her and she did not end up pursuing it. She wanted to pursue a career in art, which was frowned upon by her family. Then with marriage, Efe’s younger sister was married with like two kids by the time Efe and Sam tied the knot. She had her mother in her ear talking about how that should have been her and not her sister, sort of shaming her for being second when she “should have” been married first.
Finally, the biggest expectation, was becoming a mother. Efe did not want to be a mom. Children were a turn off for her and generally made her uncomfortable as she didn’t feel inherently maternal. She was vocal with Sam about this fact, which he hoped she’d just outgrow and basically shrugged her off in hopes of fulfilling his goal of having a family. When she got pregnant, it was like her whole life and future came undone as she knew Sam would want her to keep it. She ends up keeping the baby, after being somewhat pressured by Sam and her mother, and then the suffering began. Suffering with postpartum depression, she struggled with Olivia on her own, day in and day out, and felt less like herself as time went on. It’s clear she begins to resent Olivia for existing and Sam for not helping her and for getting to live his life and go to work while she crumbles through the pressure.
In the end, Efe wanted to be happy and ended up standing her ground to chase it. The unfortunate consequence of this was that it meant sacrificing the life she had – she caused a rift with her mother, broke up her family with Sam, and set herself up in isolation as she figured things out. There are moments where she feels guilt for what she has done but it doesn’t outweigh the feeling she got from finally pursuing something on her own for herself. At that point, she was ready to reconcile parts of her old life, primarily her marriage with Sam and her current life as an artist, to finally have it all. Unfortunately, by the time she found her middle ground and got a sense of who she was and felt genuinely happy, it was taken away from her in an instant.
Final Thoughts + Ratings:
Overall, I enjoyed reading Rootless. I identified with her in some parts, specifically the cultural pressures to be someone she doesn’t want to be. It’s challenging to find your footing and stand your ground against your parents/elders to be who you want to be and not who they want you to be. The ending was quite sad, but given Efe’s journey throughout, it wasn’t unnecessary. Neither she nor Sam were meant to have their happy endings where it’s possible that Efe and Sam weren’t meant to be in the first place. Both Efe and Sam are flawed and seeing how their journeys played out was somewhat satisfying.
All in all, I give Rootless four stars. The story does start out slow but it’s worth seeing to the end to understand what happens.
Have you read Rootless? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.