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.

Best Reads of 2019 – Romance/Life Lit/Womens Lit/Rural Fiction

In this category I prefer to read romance with a twist – a twist of social issues, a twist of crime or mystery, a twist of ….humour and fun.  Here are a couple of my favourites from 2019:

 

Love Song

Daughters of the Outback #3

Sasha Wasley

Penguin Random House Australia

Michael Joseph

ISBN: 9780143784562

 

 

When it All Went to Custard

Danielle Hawkins

HarperCollins

ISBN: 9781775541417

 

 

 

 

Review: Starting From Now – Fleur MacDonald

Starting From Now

Fleur McDonald

Allen & Unwin

ISBN: 9781760529284

 

Description:

A suspenseful novel of rural life and real country issues from our genuine Voice of the Outback, author of the bestselling Where the River Runs

 

When twenty-five-year-old journalist, Zara Ellison receives her mother’s ominous text message, Call me when you can, Zara knows it’s not good news.

 

Two weeks later, Zara has left her much-loved city life to relocate to Barker, the sleepy country town in which she grew up. For Zara, family comes first.

 

But she needs to work too, and the town’s police force is a rural journalist’s best source of information. Meeting Detective Dave Burrows and Dave’s second-in-charge, Senior Constable Jack Higgins, is a priority.

 

Amid her family’s troubles, and reporting on farming accidents and violently clashing activists, Zara is shocked to witness Jack Higgins in a role she’d never have believed. How could he possibly justify this? And what was she going to do about it?

 

Wrapped in the love of family, friendship, crime and mystery, Starting From Now is another compelling novel from the authentic voice of Fleur McDonald.

 

 

My View:

Fleur McDonald has an authentic country voice that she uses to share her experiences and knowledge of life in small country towns, farming and life in general. This narrative had a couple of standout plot threads – activism and social media – looking deeper, reflecting on “snapshots” on social media and media manipulation and the family in crisis.

 

I was particularly touched by the family scenes that dealt with family crisis (no spoilers here); the scenes were realistic, emotive and evoked memories that transported me to a difficult period in our lives. This was unexpected but very well written. I felt part of this family, dealing with their issues.

 

 

This book packs a mighty punch, cleverly weaving many plot threads together to bring about an informative, insightful and satisfying read.

 

 

 

Review: Where the Crawdads Sing – Delia Owens

Where the Crawdads Sing

Delia Owens

Hachette Australia

Little Brown Books

ISBN: 9781472154651

 

Description:

A novel about a young woman determined to make her way in the wilds of North Carolina, and the two men that will break her isolation open.

 

For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. She’s barefoot and wild; unfit for polite society. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark.

 

But Kya is not what they say. Abandoned at age ten, she has survived on her own in the marsh that she calls home. A born naturalist with just one day of school, she takes life lessons from the land, learning from the false signals of fireflies the real way of this world. But while she could have lived in solitude forever, the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. Drawn to two young men from town, who are each intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new and startling world–until the unthinkable happens.

 

 

My View:

This narrative is gently, softly spoken, yet powerful, immersive and surprising. Themes of Domestic Violence, resilience, prejudice, love and murder float softly across the page bumping chaotically against one another, leaving no marks.

 

This is the debut fictional novel for Delia Owens who has previously co-authored three internationally bestselling nonfiction books about her life as wildlife scientist in Africa. I bet she can draw too – she writes like an artist – I imagine her work in watercolours and pastels – gentle, floaty, soft and vibrant.

 

Despite the violence that punctures this novel I am overwhelmed by the protagonist’s sense of curiosity and resilience. Her studies of nature are sublime…I can imagine the books she wrote. I can picture the illustrations. I feel her loneliness, I applaud her ingenuity and strong survival instincts.

 

This book is so many things – it is a haunting portrayal of domestic violence, guilt, prejudice and entitlement yet is equally a study in resilience, of nature, of environment and enduring love. And it has a wonderfully surprising ending – what a fantastic twist! For reasons I cannot identify it left me feeling light, weightless… happy…and surprised. I look forward to reading more from this author.

 

Review: Dinner at Rose’s – Danielle Hawkins

Diner at Rose’s

Danielle Hawkins

Allen & Unwin

ISBN: 9781742379395

 

Description:

After Jo Donnelly finds her best friend having sex with her boyfriend in a chair, she flees city life to take up a temporary job at the physiotherapy clinic in her small home town. Honorary Aunty Rose takes it upon herself to act as cupid.

 

My View:

Do not be put off by the brief description that reads as chick lit/romance – Danielle Hawkins writes fiction with humour and depth and portrays rural life in a vibrant reality. There is always a very human, poignant narrative thread in Danielle’s books – and Aunt Rose is the pivotal poignant character in this read.  We all need an Aunt Rose in our life.

 

I very much enjoyed this early read from this author – I have read several of her books including Chocolate Cake for Breakfast, The Pretty Delicious Café, When it All Went to Custard;  her reflections of rural life are always interesting, engaging, poignant and satisfying. Such enjoyable writing!

 

Review: The Cottage at Rosella Cove – Sandie Docker

The Cottage at Rosella Cove

Sandie Docker

Penguin

Michael Joseph

ISBN: 9780143789215

 

Description:

Why had the house stayed empty so long? Why had it never been sold?

 

LOST

Nicole has left her city life for the sleepy town of Rosella Cove, renting the old cottage by the water. She plans to keep to herself – but when she uncovers a hidden box of wartime love letters, she realises she’s not the

first person living in this cottage to hide secrets and pain.

 

FOUND

Ivy’s quiet life in Rosella Cove is tainted by the events of World War II, with ramifications felt for many years to come. But one night a drifter appears and changes everything. Perhaps his is the soul she’s meant to save.

 

FORGOTTEN

Charlie is too afraid of his past to form any lasting ties in the cove. He knows he must make amends for his tragic deeds long ago, but he can’t do it alone. Maybe the new tenant in the cottage will help him fulfil a promise and find the redemption he isn’t sure he deserves.

 

Welcome to the cottage at Rosella Cove, where three damaged souls meet and have the chance to rewrite their futures.

 

 

My View:

Isn’t it great when you discover a new author to add to your “authors you must read” list?

 

Sandie Docker writes with a subtleness that is poignant and encompasses many contemporary social issues without shouting her message loudly in your face.  There are many threads to this narrative – domestic violence – DV does not always include physical violence; it can be a deliberate isolation from friends and family, a slow erosion of self and self-confidence, financial dependence/control…the psychological assault is oh so manipulative and dire…Docker weaves this thread into the narrative with a deceptive charm – blink and you will miss the signs – just as the victim does. But this is more than a narrative of DV, it is a charming story of friendships, new and old, about redemption, rebuilding  –  I liked the analogy for rebuilding life/rebuilding cottage – by allowing friendship in and opening  up your heart to possibilities and hope.

 

I loved the device – the reading of old letters – to fill in gaps, to tell a personal history and a world history, to add depth to characters, and to provide optimism and resolution.

 

This is a deceptively simple narrative that encompasses so much life. A great read.