Too Close to Home
Shortlisted for the Barbara Jefferiss Award. Too Close To Home takes us right inside who we really are.
How tenuous the links are that build a life.
Freya writes uncomfortable domestic dramas. Her friends work in theatre and film, show in galleries, talk politics and are trying new ways of having children with friends. These are the people who are slowly gentrifying the next ring of inner-city suburbs while praising their diversity.
As the stultifying heat of summer descends, Shane, an Aboriginal man, moves up the road. He was once close to Matt, Freya’s partner, and he not only brings with him a different approach to life, he also has news of a boy who might be Matt’s son. Despite wanting to embrace all that Shane represents and the possibility of another child in their life, Freya and Matt stumble, failing each other and their beliefs.
The first few chapters did not inspire me to read much further –I don’t know why, they just did not engage me but I forged on and soon found myself totally engrossed in this narrative. It is a gently told story of relationships, of how the individual person can be political and of modern day suburban Australia, and I am pleased I read this book. It did make me think, it made me a little sad; the revealing of personal prejudices, personal stories which for me asked one important question – how do you describe and define family?
Although written a few years ago the political references and conundrums haven’t changed, they are still relevant today; including but not limited to climate change, refugees, Indigenous rights, unemployment, cost of housing, youth mental health concerns… Australian politics still remains a two person race and not one of any real choice. Where is the leadership? Blain’s writing is mostly subtle as she gently prods our conscience and asks us to think about prejudices and family, mostly she is subtle; sometime she out and out shouts her political concerns to anyone who will hear. Are we listening? I was, her concerns held real meaning to me.
The big question that I feel was raised in this book was about caring for others, (p.223 Matt to Freya) “But am I only allowed to help if there is a genetic link – is my care and compassion limited to that? You and your friends sit around complaining about how little is done for others and you never look at yourselves. All I can do is make a decision about the way I think I should behave in the circumstances – and I want to help.”
Isn’t that all anyone can do/should do? These few sentences condense the issues of the book and of society today, issues that are very close to home.