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

The Trees Grew Because I Bled There by Bram Stoker Award Finalist Eric LaRocca is a collection of “literary dark / body horror” stories previously published in 2021 as The Strange Thing We Became and Other Dark Tales. These eight stories are always bleakly atmospheric and tend to stay away from the supernatural while focusing on mental illness and bad behavior of all types.

There are a few stand-out stories that give an idea of the tone. First, the title story, “The Trees Grew Because I Bled There,” in which a couple have an agreement that the man can take the woman’s body parts (so far both feet and an eye) whenever the need strikes him. The woman finds a delightful way to turn the tables. Next, the evocatively titled, “Where Flames Burned Emerald as Grass.” A man who doesn’t know how to tell his daughter he is in a gay relationship is attacked by a viper-wielding maniac. In most of the stories, there is a motif that queerness gets punished. This builds as the stories progress to end with “Please Leave or I’m Going to Hurt You,” in which a middle-aged man grapples with his incestuous feelings toward his aging and ailing father.

There is a calm seriousness to LaRocca’s prose. You feel in good hands even if those hands are scabbed, bruised, and bloody. The stories are unapologetically queer; and, one last warning, that queerness is often punished in the ways in which dark / body horror likes to punish. The collection is for fans of the genre and the author, but if you can handle the ick factor, then definitely give Eric LaRocca’s The Trees Grew Because I Bled There a try. This is yet another fine entry from Titan Books .

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Greg Hammond

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