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Review: Groundskeeping

Title: Groundskeeping
Author: Lee Cole
Genre: Literary Fiction
Page Count: 336
Publisher: Knopf Publishing Group
Date Published: March 1, 2022
You can find it here: Bookshop.org

“I’ve always had the same predicament. When I’m home, in Kentucky, all I want is to leave. When I’m away, I’m homesick for a place that never was.” While this brilliant first sentence of Lee Cole’s new novel was his centring dilemma pushing him to write this story, for me, Groundskeeping revolves around the Walt Whitman quote that people contain multitudes. 

The 2016 American election cycle and the following four years contained so much vileness it’s hard to, looking back, comprehend it all. While I’m not American, that poison of hatred spread globally and was felt, still felt, everywhere. One of the most confounding results of this time period is our seemingly collective death of empathy and the complete lack of trust in the fact that most people are inherently good. Societally we have fallen into this constant dichotomy that if someone doesn’t hold the same opinions as you then they aren’t on your “side” and therefore are wrong, ignorant and evil. We’ve forgotten how to hear other people’s opinions without being personally affronted. We’ve forgotten that people screw up, say the wrong thing. Because of the instantaneousness with which a person needs to form a “complete and wholly correct” opinion on every issue slamming into us every day, compounded with the absolute social persecution that will follow if you say something incorrectly, people are mostly silent. Distrustful. 

What Lee Cole did in this story is a masterful exploratory look at the whole self – all its good and all its bad and all its ugly. No single character in this story is wholly one or the other. Division and distrust are our standard but Groundskeeping forces you to look more closely at those walled off, steadfast opinions. In a time where we are all screaming, we’ve completely forgotten how to listen. Tenderly and simplistically wrote, perceptive, empathetic, and bold, put this novel in the hands of Ann Patchett and Lily King fans. 


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