Reed's Recommendation Corner: The Trees Grew Because I Bled There by Eric LaRocca

Book cover with text, trees to the left of the cover with red leaves on sparse branches on the ground. An ominous hooded figure is faced away, appearing to walk into the forest.
The Trees Grew There Because I Bled There by Eric LaRocca

I've really been on a kick of shorter books lately, and this collection of eight stories was on my to-be-read list since I started following the author on Twitter (@hystericteeth). I love some good queer horror, where being queer isn't the plot of the story. These stories range from deep, terrifying body horror to Saw-like shenanigans that makes you wonder if there is ever an end. Chuck Wending, in the introduction, talks about a writer's "voice" and how, for most, it comes from a really deep place within, pulled up like water from a well. LaRocca's well is dark and deep, filled with creatures that peek through the walls of mold and slime. And, oh my, are they HUNGRY. 

One of the stories, "Bodies are for Burning" that really hit hard. A woman with deep, intrusive thoughts about burning others is forced to babysit her young niece, despite her obvious fear that she cannot control her thoughts. There's a lot to unpack just in this story - but what bothered me the most was how insistent her sister was, how she emotionally blackmails her sister into babysitting a vulnerable child. In an act of immense bravery, the main character does the only thing she can think to do. 

As someone who suffers from intrusive thoughts, I really felt this story. The main character isn't a bad person - these thoughts aren't her per se, they just... exist. It's compulsive. It's intrusive. It seems like people don't take it seriously. Ever her therapist dismisses her concerns about hurting her niece. The ending was the main character taking the control of her life back. 

In "Where Flames Burned Emerald As Grass", a single father contemplates his parenting and whether he should confess to his teenage daughter that he has a relationship with a man. He's passionately writing letters to his lover, while begrudgingly watching out for his daughter in a pool. A quote towards the beginning of the story: 
Although he made every effort to indoctrinate his twelve-year-old daughter Cassie into his expertly designed regimen, she remained less than willing to comply. To him she was merely a loathsome free spirit as he exasperatedly watched her circle laps in the pool without the proper eyewear.

Wow. Just wow - the contrast between his letter writing and his thoughts about his daughter are stark.  It's like he wants to be the perfect parent, because he promised his wife, but he keeps himself at a distance. He wants to show her his humanity, but he is struggling with it. A strange man intervenes when she gets a splinter, and after helping Cassie remove it, makes the main character an offer. This man, Adrien, states that all three of them will die if he doesn't take Cassie from the hotel and leave. The main character considers it.... HE ACTUALLY CONSIDERS IT. He thinks about letting a stranger take his twelve-year-old daughter, so that he can be free of the obligation. The ending was not what I expected for this story, but I was engrossed from the first few pages. 

What I've talked about here is only two of the eight stories. All of them have the ability to grab you, and force you through the looking glass where everything normal feels just a step off from the rest of the world. This alternate world may be one that terrifies you, but you may wish to stay and indulge in the dark waters of its secret well, which taste sweet and bitter, but makes you feel like home. 

This book is available at your local bookstore. I've started ordering from this website, which allows you to support small, independently owned book stores. 


All the horror aside, I managed to get dressed up in pink to see the Barbie Movie. It was surprisingly really good. I'm not going to turn this into a review of that movie, though. Here's my pink Barbie Boi look: