Epeolatry Book Review: The Trees Grew because I Bled There by Eric LaRocca


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Title: The Trees Grew because I Bled There
Writer: Eric LaRocca
Publisher: Titan Books
Genre: Horror; Short Stories
Publication Date: March 7th, 2023

Synopsis: “The stories collected here are by turns confident, brutal, and breathtaking… must-read horror” The New York Times
A beautifully crafted, devastating short fiction collection from the Bram Stoker Awards® finalist and author of Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke. Includes an introduction from acclaimed bestselling author Chuck Wendig.

Eight stories of literary dark fiction from a master storyteller. Exploring the shadow side of love, these are tales of grief, obsession, control. Intricate examinations of trauma and tragedy in raw, poetic prose. In these narratives, a woman imagines horrific scenarios whilst caring for her infant niece; on-line posts chronicle a cancer diagnosis; a couple in the park with their small child encounter a stranger with horrific consequences; a toxic relationship reaches a terrifying resolution…

Originally published under the title The Strange Thing We Become and Other Dark Tales, this is a much-praised collection of deeply unsettling, painfully dark tales.

I discovered Eric LaRocca on social media—the little book that could. Intrigued by the posts, I had to read what the aplomb was about. Chuck Wendig and I agree (he wrote the Introduction), the more you read LaRocca, the more you’ll want to read LaRocca. At under 200 pages with eight short stories, the titles are as ominous as their content.


“You Follow Wherever They Go”—

Opening Line: “Why don’t you go out there and introduce yourself?” he asks me with a charm I had forgotten he possessed—a grin so cloying that a magician might redden. 

This is a sad story with a bit of hope, one that leaves you wondering how to interpret what you’ve just read.  


“Bodies Are For Burning”—

Opening Line: As the Ivy League stench from Dr. Caldwell’s breath tickles the hairs in my nostrils, I think of pushing the burning red of a lighter against his mouth just to get him to shut up.

Thoughts don’t always become actions, but sometimes they manifest into reality. This story, to me, was about sacrifice and the struggle with desire.


“The Strange Thing We Become”—

Opening Line: An online thread-posting is titled a human stain and followed by, Trying this out.

I found myself saddened and angry at cancer, then Googling the character likened to Marina Abramovic. The small red carrot flashed quite the visual in my mind! His similes and metaphors are so razor sharp that I’m not sure when he’s being literal.


“The Trees Grew Because I Bled There”—

Opening Line: “I have bad news,” I tell him, an admonition I know he won’t hear. 

I had to liken this one to the phrase “beauty is pain” and the movie Boxing Helena. The Avant-garde thriller left a disquieting taste in my mouth, as did this story.


“You’re Not Supposed To Be Here”—

Opening Line: “You’re not supposed to be here,” he says with such matter-of-fact ease that it almost sounds reassuring.

Characters Lyric and Melody—beware of their tune. They are not two lovely people who really want or expect a response to their head-scratching conundrum. This engaging tale reminded me of a movie, a title I can’t recall. But I can see LaRocca’s short on the big screen and I think it’d make an excellent thriller. 


“Where Flames Burned Emerald As Grass”—

Opening Line: Perdón Señor?” he called, flagging down one of the hotel’s immaculately groomed waitstaff from across the pond with an embroidered white handkerchief.

Again, I’d love to see this one performed on the big screen. I can say it was my favorite of LaRocca’s collection. While you might guess the outcome, you might not peg it exactly. 


“I’ll Be Gone By Then”—

Opening Line: It doesn’t creep into my mind the way it might for others who have known their mother all their life—a gentle realization of mortality when her hair begins to gray or when her hands start to prune with wrinkles.

As a caregiver to older people, I definitely related to this piece of despair. My younger daughter works for McDonald’s. This is one of those horrors that could happen, and could be all too real. I’d like to read a follow up to this one from the mother’s POV.


“Please Leave Or I’m Going To Hurt You”—

Opening Line: It’s customary when hiking—whether it be the massive canyons of red clay out west or the pine-scented trails of the Adirondacks back east—to greet fellow hikers with a cordial “Hello” when passing. 

Maybe we’ve all thought or uttered this title at one point in our lives, but this short concerns itself with the worst horror of all, the one that has the potential to drive people to commit unspeakable acts—unrequited love.


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