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Rootless by Krystle Zara Appiah

Contemporary fiction

Rootless

Debut

We love supporting debut authors. Congrats, Krystle Zara Appiah, on your first book!

by Krystle Zara Appiah

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Quick take

An unexpected pregnancy pushes a married couple into a raw and emotional exploration of what it is they truly want.

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Heavy_Read

    Heavy read

  • Illustrated icon, Slow_Build

    Slow build

  • Illustrated icon, Marriage_Issues

    Marriage issues

  • Illustrated icon, Mama_Drama

    Mama drama

Synopsis

On a Spring afternoon in London, Sam hops the stairs of his flat two at a time. There’s £1,300 missing from his and his wife, Efe’s, shared bank account and his calls are going straight to voicemail. When he finally reaches someone, he learns Efe is nearly 5,000 miles away as their toddler looks around and asks, “Where’s Mummy?”

When Efe and Sam met as teens headed for university, it seemed everyone knew they were meant to be. Efe, newly arrived in the UK from Ghana and sinking under the weight of her parents’ expectations, found comfort in the focused and idealistic Sam. He was stable, working toward a law career, and had an unwavering vision for their future. A vision Efe, now a decade later, finds slightly insufferable. From the outside, they’re the picture-perfect couple everyone imagined, but there are cracks in the frame.

When Efe and Sam are faced with an unplanned pregnancy, they find themselves on opposing sides. Fatherhood is everything he has dreamed of, but Efe feels stuck in a nightmare. And when a new revelation emerges, they are forced to confront just how radically different they want their lives to be. Already swallowed by the demands of motherhood and feeling the dreams she had slipping away once again, Efe disappears.

Content warning

This book contains scenes depicting self-harm.

Free sample

Get an early look from the first pages of Rootless.

Rootless

MAY 2016

Five Months Before

Sam knows he is too late even as he sprints back from the station. He runs the whole way, phone clenched in his fist, the early afternoon sun at his back. His lungs are seizing in his chest by the time he crashes into the stairwell. He takes the stairs two at a time and, panting loudly, calls Efe’s name as he staggers into the flat. Nothing is out of place. Maybe he’s overreacting. She has to be here somewhere, he thinks as he moves from room to room, peers around corners, behind the bathroom door. He throws open the utility closet and stares at the hoover and dust-covered pots of paint. The last room he checks is their bedroom. The door sits open and ominous at the end of the hall. Here he finds gaps everywhere: bare hangers, three pairs of shoes gone, a drawer cracked open as if she’d left in a hurry, her favorite necklace glinting on the dresser.

Sam doubles over. Suddenly the air is warm and sludgy. The room swims. He feels like a small child waking up groggy and alone in a ghost-filled house. He checks his phone again, scans through the stream of messages he’s fired out, but there’s still no reply from Efe. All his calls go to voicemail. The £1,300 payment to British Airways is still pending. Then he thinks of Olivia and panic floods his system anew. He fumbles with his mobile, calls the babysitter, and mutters “Pick up, pick up, pick up” until she does.

“Hello.”

“Is Olivia there?” Sam says.

“Of course. Is everything o—?”

“Let me speak to her,” he interrupts. There’s a brief scuffling sound as the phone changes hands; then Sam hears Liv on the line. His legs soften as he listens to the toddler sway to her words, the soft p sounds and the wobbly t’s. He sinks to the floor. Unaware, Liv chats happily about Bear-Bear, seamlessly picking up their conversation from hours earlier. Sam lets his eyes close and smiles. “See you soon. I love you. Be a good girl,” he says, then adds, “I’m coming to pick you up, okay? Put Miss Bea back on the phone.” After the call, Sam lowers his face into his hands. He waits for the ringing in his ears to stop and the flecks of dancing light to scatter; then he summons up all the energy he has, to face the aftermath.

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Why I love it

One mark of a great novel is the emotions its characters are able to elicit within us. Krystle Zara Appiah’s Rootless is one such example of a character-driven narrative which, from page one, welcomes you in, leads you to your seat and buckles you in for the journey on which you are about to embark.

There live within the pages of Rootless, a host of characters, but the main players are Efe, Sam, and their accompanying outlooks on life, the latter almost taking on their own personalities and becoming the driving forces behind how the story plays out. Efe’s complicated past, her relationship with the UK, and her hesitation around motherhood pulling her one way, Sam’s full-throated optimism about parenthood and his familial bonds pulling him another.

The foundations for Sam and Efe’s union are their shared heritage and their youth spent navigating studies and greater responsibilities against the dual backdrops of London and Ghana, a bond built on friendship. They are the epitome of messy, infuriating and loveable—their romance constantly driving them apart and pulling them back together. They war. They repent. They fly their mistakes like flags. That is the beauty of this Appiah’s work—humanity is on display on every single page.

Rootless is a beautifully honest exploration of the complexities of motherhood, marriage, family, and love. It is a novel not to be missed!

Member ratings (2,696)

  • Kayla M.

    Natrona Heights, PA

    ❤️‍????????????❤️‍???????????? this book hit me hard! I wasn’t seeing that ending coming at all and I definitely cried in this book! It was an amazing debut by this author and I hope to read more of her books!

  • Kerri F.

    Summerville, SC

    I loved this book ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️. There was so much emotion and so many real feelings around motherhood. I love books that take place in different countries. It’s like taking a trip each time I read.

  • Tara T.

    Arvada, CO

    A slow start but by about 150 pages in, I couldn’t put it down. A heartbreaking exploration of identity, one’s sense of self, and what it means to be a mother while still trying to hold onto yourself.

  • Vannessa F.

    Everett, WA

    Such a raw, real and emotional book on what motherhood is really like for those of us that don’t have that “village”. Day in and day out doing it alone and no one listening when we scream for help.

  • Jennifer S.

    Henderson, NV

    At first I thought I wasn’t really connecting to the material and thought I’d finish and give the book a meh review. Then I got to the end…I was so wrong. I’m still processing my emotions on it!

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Contemporary fiction
View all
The Last Love Note
Anita de Monte Laughs Last
Honey
The Leftover Woman
Interesting Facts about Space
Bye, Baby
Swan Song
The Connellys of County Down
Joe Nuthin’s Guide to Life
Jackpot Summer
Adelaide
The Collected Regrets of Clover
Again and Again
Evil Eye
Black Cake
Maame
Romantic Comedy
Someone Else’s Shoes
Once There Were Wolves
We Are the Brennans
The Bad Muslim Discount
What Comes After
Olga Dies Dreaming
Last Summer at the Golden Hotel
Monster in the Middle
My Dark Vanessa
Nine Perfect Strangers
The Star-Crossed Sisters of Tuscany
The Girl with Stars in Her Eyes
Honey Girl
In Every Mirror She's Black
Yinka, Where Is Your Huzband?
Sankofa
The Unsinkable Greta James
The Love of My Life
The Five-Star Weekend
The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto
The Wishing Game
Behold the Dreamers
The Mothers
All the Ugly and Wonderful Things
Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk
Little Fires Everywhere
The Music Shop
Queenie
Where’d You Go, Bernadette
The Reckless Oath We Made
Dear Edward
When We Were Vikings
The Girl with the Louding Voice
Anxious People
A Good Neighborhood
Big Summer
All Adults Here
Happy & You Know It
Friends and Strangers
The Comeback
True Story
The Last Story of Mina Lee
Troubles in Paradise
White Ivy
This Close to Okay
The Chicken Sisters
The Prophets
The Kindest Lie
In a Book Club Far Away
The Other Black Girl
Apples Never Fall
A Quiet Life
We Are the Light
The Most Likely Club
The Fortunes of Jaded Women
When We Were Bright and Beautiful
The Hotel Nantucket