Review: Small Mercies – Richard Anderson

Small Mercies
Richard Anderson
Scribe
ISBN: 9781925849707

Description:
A husband and wife living on a severely drought-afflicted property take a brief break, only to find that their relationship is parched, too.

After enduring months of extreme drought on their modest freehold, farming couple Dimple and Ruthie face uncertain times on more than one front. Ruthie receives the news every woman dreads. Meanwhile, a wealthy landowner, Wally Oliver, appears on the local radio station, warning small farmers like Dimple and Ruthie that they are doomed, that the sooner they leave the land to large operators like him, the better. Bracing for a fight on all fronts, the couple decide to take a road trip to confront Oliver. Along the way, not only is their resolve tested, but their relationship as well.

Desperate not to dwell on the past but to face up to the future, Dimple and Ruthie make a crucial decision they soon regret. And when the storm clouds finally roll in across the land they love, there’s more than the rain to contend with.

Told with enormous heart, Small Mercies is a tender love story. It is a story of a couple who feel they must change to endure, and of the land that is as important as their presence on it.

My View:
Richard Anderson does not disappoint! What a versatile writer able to easily cross the divide of mystery /suspense (Retribution, Boxed) to evocative small-town drama set in realistic physical, economical, moral and political landscapes. This was an engaging and thought provoking read, storytelling at its best, nuanced and credible.

Anderson writes Australian outback with a clarity that comes from personal experience. “Richard Anderson is a second-generation farmer from northern New South Wales. He has been running a beef-cattle farm for twenty-five years, but has also worked as a miner and had a stint on the local council.” (GoodReads author page). The narrative feels biographical, I am sure there are elements of Richard’s own experience of life events, big and small, of farming and local politics that inform his writing. It is in the subtleties of these details of everyday life that Anderson’s writing soars. You can easily place yourself in the setting, in the emotions, in the relationships.

Against this backdrop of hardship and drought a finely drawn story of enduing love is exposed. We are privy to the self-talk and the situations, good and difficult, that all relationships face in varying degrees and we hang in there with them as they struggle to move forward in very difficult circumstances. I really like that this narrative is about mature age, long term married, likable characters, complete with wrinkles and a good dose of humanness. Anderson has taken such care in his portrayal of this couple that we feel privileged to know them and want them to thrive.

This is a timely written narrative with many contemporary social, economic, and personal issues that could be playing out live in a country or regional town near you. This is great reading. I loved it.

Some Very Personal Insights – Fleur McDonald

Recently I read the new release from author Fleur McDonald – Red Dirt Country (review to follow soon) – if you haven’t had the pleasure of reading this author before you are in for a real treat. This series is The Voice in Australian Outback Crime Fiction; wonderful characters, settings to transport you to “other” worlds, crimes to be solved, all peppered with a subtle insights of the society her characters live in.

 

Fleur writes with authenticity. After reading this, her third book in the Detective Dave Burrows series I was motivated to look up Fleur’s website https://www.fleurmcdonald.com/  to learn a little more about her motivation for her writing. Her bio states: “Fleur McDonald has lived and worked on farms for much of her life. After growing up in the small town of Orroroo in South Australia, she became a jillaroo before spending twenty years farming 8000 acres, east of Esperance, WA. Fleur likes to write about strong women overcoming adversity, drawing inspiration from her own experiences in rural Australia… Fleur McDonald is a highly sought after guest speaker. Fleur not only is available to present on the topic of writing, but also across areas she is most passionate about. This includes country life, autism, domestic violence and her non for profit organisation “Breaking the Silence” which tailors Domestic Violence services across Australia.”

I reached out to Fleur and asked her about her interest in Domestic Violence ( a theme that recurs in her novels – sometimes subtly, sometimes loudly).

I was surprised by the honesty of Fleur’s response. Speaking up, speaking out is, in my opinion, essential to breaking the silence of Domestic Violence.  Please listen to Fleur’s response and check out her website.

https://www.fleurmcdonald.com/tag/domestic-violence/

Fleur’s Response:

My involvement in domestic violence came from having lived experience. I understand the fear, shame and self-hatred that comes from living in a house where this occurs. As I understand what it does to the children who are under the same roof.

Domestic and Family violence is very different in country areas, which is something I wanted to highlight, along with the fact that all DFV isn’t physical. There are many parts (emotional, financial, mental and so on) which leave bruises on your soul, rather than your body. That’s where Breaking the Silence got its name.

Breaking the Silence is a not for Profit organisation and website which acts as a directory of all DFV services involved in your town. At the moment, we are only in Esperance and Albany, but by June 2020 we will have another eight towns in Western Australia. By October 2020, we will be offering counselling services either online or by phone.

I started this organisation with my own money and later, as I wanted to expand into other towns, lobbied the federal Government for funding. Minister Hunt saw the benefit in Breaking the Silence and gave an grant which will enable us to get all of Western Australia online and start the counselling services. We intend to branch out into other states in during this time.

The current COVIS-19 crisis will see a rise in DFV rates, there can be no doubt. I wish we were further down the track with the counselling services, than we are, but we are working as quickly as we can to get these services up and running.

 

Thank you Fleur. 

 

Women’s Domestic Violence Helpline – Western Australia
The Women’s Domestic Violence Helpline is a state wide 24 hour service. This service provides support and counselling for women experiencing family and domestic violence. This includes phone counselling, information and advice, referral to local advocacy and support services, liaison with police if necessary and support in escaping situations of family and domestic violence. The service can refer women to safe accommodation if required. A telephone based interpreting service is available if required.
Telephone (08) 9223 1188   Free call 1800 007 339
In an emergency – if someone is in immediate danger – call the police on 000 now.

Review: The Banksia Bay Beach Shack – Sandie Docker

The Banksia Bay Beach Shack
Sandie Docker
Penguin Random House
Michael Joseph
ISBN: 9781760890353
RRP $32.99

Description:
A year is a long time in the memory of a small town. Stories get twisted, truths become warped, history is rewritten.

MYSTERIES

When Laura discovers an old photo of her grandmother, Lillian, with an intriguing inscription on the back, she heads to the sleepy seaside town of Banksia Bay to learn the truth of Lillian’s past. But when she arrives, Laura finds a community where everyone seems to be hiding something.

SECRETS

Virginia, owner of the iconic Beach Shack café, has kept her past buried for sixty years. As Laura slowly uncovers the tragic fragments of that summer so long ago, Virginia must decide whether to hold on to her secrets or set the truth free.

LIES

Young Gigi and Lily come from different worlds but forge an unbreakable bond – the ‘Sisters of Summer’. But in 1961 a chain of events is set off that reaches far into the future. One lie told. One lie to set someone free. One lie that changes the course of so many lives.

Welcome to the Banksia Bay Beach Shack, where first love is found and last chances are taken.

A moving and heartfelt story by the bestselling author of The Kookaburra Creek Café and The Cottage At Rosella Cove.

Praise for Sandie Docker:
‘Docker soars from the absolute heart’ Australian Women’s Weekly

‘The best of the best of heart-wrenching yarns.’ Woman’s Day

 

My View:
A tender, bittersweet dual time lined narrative that is a big chunk of mystery with a dash romance, that subtlety puts the spotlight on sexism, misogyny and racism in the 60’s whilst it considers if some secrets really are worth revealing.

It is interesting to step back in time to the small coastal town of Banksia Bay and examine the lifestyles and life choices of some of its inhabitants and the impact those choices made in their lives sixty years later from this distance. Have we progressed? Have we changed very much? I think some of the issues spotlighted have just been dressed in contemporary clothes.

Sandie Docker paints with a vibrant palette; her small-town settings are warm, inviting and picturesque, I could clearly envisage the beach, the surf, the scent of Australian summer. Her characters are finely drawn; you will recognise features and mannerisms of people you may know. The way this small community supports each other is times of adversity will warm your heart.

A delightful, bittersweet read.

Review: The Dilemma – B A Paris

The Dilemma
B A Paris
HQ
ISBN: 9780008287047

Description:
It’s Livia’s fortieth birthday and tonight she’s having a party, a party she’s been planning for a long time. The only person missing will be her daughter, Marnie.

But Livia has a secret, a secret she’s been keeping from Adam, her husband, until the party is over. Because how can she tell him that although she loves Marnie, she’s glad their daughter won’t be there to celebrate with her?

Adam is determined everything will be just right for Livia and the party is going to be perfect… until he learns something that will leave him facing an unbearable decision.

My View:
I don’t know why but I was expecting this read to be edgy, perhaps more suspenseful, more of a crime fiction type read. Why? I don’t know, it certainly surprised me – in a good kind of way. What I got was a very nuanced discussion about families, relationships, what ifs and lots of moral dilemmas.

The characters are credible, relatable and interesting. The scenarios will make you think. This read is full of emotions and ultimately, is heartbreaking. I like how the author pushes on and allows the characters to work through some of the most painful experiences that any one could face.

A great read.

Review: Long Bright River – Liz Moore

Long Bright River
Liz Moore
Penguin Random House Australia
Hutchinson London
ISBN:9781786331632

Description:
KENSINGTON AVE, PHILADELPHIA:

THE FIRST PLACE YOU GO FOR DRUGS OR SEX.
THE LAST PLACE YOU WANT TO LOOK FOR YOUR SISTER.

Mickey Fitzpatrick has been patrolling the 24th District for years. She knows most of the working women by name. She knows what desperation looks like and what people will do when they need a fix. She’s become used to finding overdose victims: their numbers are growing every year. But every time she sees someone sprawled out, slumped over, cold to the touch, she has to pray it’s not her sister, Kacey.

When the bodies of murdered sex workers start turning up on the Ave, the Chief of Police is keen to bury the news. They’re not the kind of victims that generate a whole lot of press anyway. But Mickey is obsessed, dangerously so, with finding the perpetrator – before Kacey becomes the next victim.
_____________________________________
‘A remarkable, profoundly moving novel about the ties that bind and the irrevocable wounds of childhood. It’s also a riveting mystery, perfectly paced. I loved every page of it.’ DENNIS LEHANE

My View:
I predict awards, awards, awards for this book! This is an amazing read, this is what you discover when literary fiction collides with crime fiction – a full on, unstoppable narrative that is poignant, simultaneously heartbreaking yet uplifting, engaging; writing that is brilliantly constructed, complex not complicated, AND then there is the slow building tension of the unsolved crimes that escalates into a teeth clenching, heart racing conclusion. What a read!

I have been reviewing books/blogging my reviews since 2013 and I cannot think of any other read that comes close to this. This book is already in my “best of 2020 reads”, possibly my BEST read, ever.

I think you should read this book.

Guest Review: House of Wishes – Jenn J McLeod

The House of Wishes

Jenn J. McLeod

Wild Myrtle Press

ISBN: 9780648570806

 

Description:

A story for mothers, daughters, fathers and sons: about the choices we make, the connections that matter, the secrets we keep, and the power of wishes.

Dandelion House is ready to reveal its secrets.

Dandelion House, 1974

Two teenage girls—strangers—make a pact to never tell their secret.

Calingarry Crossing, 2014

For forty years, Beth and her mum have been everything to each other, but Beth is blind-sided when her mother dies, and her last wish is to have her ashes spread in a small-town cemetery.

On the outskirts of Calingarry Crossing, Beth comes across Dandelion House Retreat. With her stage career waning, and struggling to see a future without her mum, her marriage, and her child, Beth really hopes it’s a place where she can begin to heal.

After her fateful encounter with a local landowner, Tom, Beth is intrigued by his stories of the cursed, century-old river house that was once a swank summer residence for arty eccentrics and a maternity home for unmarried mothers. The more Beth learns about the place and the reclusive owner, Gypsy—whose mother, Maeve was a fortune-teller in a travelling carnival—the more she questions her mother’s wishes.

Tom has the answers, but will the truth help Beth?

Or should Dandelion House keep its last, long-held secret?

 

 

Brenda’s Review:

Beth had never heard of Calingarry Crossing but here she was, driving the long journey from Sydney to a tiny bush town in NSW, not far from the border of Queensland, to fulfil her beloved mother’s last wish. The spreading of her ashes in a particular section of Calingarry Crossing’s cemetery puzzled Beth, but she would do as her Mum wanted then leave once again…

After an inauspicious introduction to the town, Beth found herself in front of a sign which read Dandelion House Retreat – but it wasn’t the relaxing B&B she’d hoped for. The intriguing old place on the river would be central to Beth’s healing, although she didn’t know it yet. The meeting of a local farmer, Tom Dawson found Beth laughing more than she had in some time; but also Beth was fascinated in his stories about Dandelion House and its owner Gypsy.

Beth found herself confused; she didn’t understand her mother’s wishes – but would she find the answers she sought in this small out of the way place? There were secrets long buried; a story that began in 1974. Beth was grieving, lost and lonely – what was the truth to her past?

I thoroughly enjoyed House of Wishes by Aussie author Jenn J. McLeod with its loose links to two of her previous books, House for all Seasons and Simmering Season. Dandelion House has a life and heart of its own, and the author brings it to life as it wraps itself around those living there. Great characters fill House of Wishes; my particular favourite is Don. An emotional, heartfelt novel that kept me involved from start to finish, House of Wishes is one I highly recommend. I must mention the beautiful cover too. 5 stars.

With thanks to the author for my digital ARC to read in exchange for an honest review.