Root Cause: The Story Of A Food Fight Fugitive
When Bruce Dinkle becomes obsessed with eating only local food, his zeal badly exceeds his judgment. After alienating his family by enforcing a strict locavore and urban agriculturist lifestyle, he abandons them by bicycle on a quixotic quest to learn where food comes from. He quickly becomes enmeshed in a small Michigan farming community where he goes to work for a large crop farmer, meets a sagacious veterinarian, and falls for a randy goat lady—all part of a sprawling cast of characters who enliven this often hilarious, mix of food, family, sex, and a little violence down on the farm. Think Michael Pollan meets James Herriot and Carl Hiaasen.
For more on Root Cause and its author, please visit www.jameswcrissman.com
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Root Cause: The Story of a Food Fight Fugitive
James W. Crissman
Xlibris CorporationReviewed by Kenneth S. Allen
Anyone who has wrestled with how to apply universal values to a personal life, anyone who has pondered the interconnected nature of modern society, anyone who has had the urge to chuck it all and ride off into the sunrise – in short, everyone – will identify with Bruce Dinkle. Bruce is the protagonist, hero and anti-hero of James W. Crissman’s debut novel, Root Cause: The story of a Food Fight Fugitive, and he embodies a lot of what we “adults” wrestle with every day.
In early middle age, Bruce Dinkle has decided to focus his not inconsiderable intellect and attention onto the issue of food: where it comes from, how it gets to the table, what are the benefits of our vast agro-economy versus the costs in terms of environmental damage and human obliviousness. His reaction to these ponderings: sell the small family farm, his wife’s horse and both internal combustion-driven vehicles and move into town where he can bicycle to work and his wife and two kids can walk wherever they need to go. A basement full of chickens provide protein, a community garden provides some vegetables and everything else must come from within a 100-mile radius that Bruce draws on a map with a grade school compass.
Bruce’s breaking point comes as tensions over this restrictive lifestyle mount at home and his soul-numbing job at a power plant takes its toll at work. Early one morning, Bruce packs an extra-large lunch, pockets his stash of cached cash and heads out on his bicycle.
Hilarity ensues, as well as psychic pain, mind-expanding education, personal growth, goat-inspired sex, and death.
While the plot is intriguing and the story a good read, what sets Root Cause apart from many first novels is the information Crissman supplies from his background as a veterinary pathologist and former large animal vet, combined with exhaustive research into food production. The scenes he presents of farm animal care are riveting. And the information he provides on how modern agriculture works creates a conundrum that resists the easy solutions that ultimately confound Bruce Dinkle, and probably a lot of other people.
Root Cause is laugh-out-loud funny in some places, poignant in others. It is always entertaining and makes the reader wonder if strongly held beliefs, whether recently adopted or absorbed through the generations, stand up to the test of reality and science.
Crissman is the author of a 1998 Pudding House Publications chapbook, Jailbait in Holy Water, and has won numerous prizes for his poetry. His short story, Wallhangers, won the 2007 Dirt Rag literature contest.
Kenneth S. Allen’s reviews have appeared in the St. Petersburg Times, The Charlotte Observer, Charlotte magazine and Knight-Ridder newspapers.
Great read, some of the inane rationalizations of the characters reminds me of A Confederacy of Dunces.