A writer, Eudora Welty insisted, must know her characters’ “hearts and minds before they ever set visible foot on stage. You must know all, then not tell it all, or not tell too much at once: simply the right thing at the right moment.” When fiction doles out its revelations in this way — when it allows just the right sequence of glimpses through a parted curtain — we misleadingly call it “realistic.” Actual existence is rarely well choreographed.
The stories in “Dark Roots,” the Australian writer Cate Kennedy’s first collection, are melancholy but deliberate and coolly exact. They depict characters in crisis, often so mired in what Walker Percy called the malaise of everydayness that the horror of their condition is invisible to them. Some of the stories culminate in epiphanies; others hinge on a jolt — a violent act or loss.