I came to say goodbye

…by Caroline Overington.

The book begins with a young woman walking into Sydney Children’s Hospital and taking a baby girl from a ward. That is the prologue. It then moves on to a letter by Med Atley to a judge. He recounts his life in Forster, New South Wales up to the moment where the young woman in the prologue, his daughter, takes the baby. Med recounts how he met and married his ex-wife Pat and had two children, Karen aka Kat and son, Blue. And ten years later, another child. Donna-Faye. A.k.a. Fat. Pat walks out on Med when Fat is merely two years old and consequently, Med raises her on his own. At the same time, Kat, who is intellectually gifted, gets a scholarship to study at a private girls’ school in Sydney for her high school. As Fat becomes a teenager, Med realises how difficult things can get. For one thing, Fat starts to get interested in boys. And worse, she takes up Paul Haines at the age of 15. Ten years her senior. Known for criminal behaviour, drug use and violence since the age of 10, he is nothing short of bad news. At 16 Fat moves in with him and things get worse for Med as she is unable to see the flaws in her partner. It all comes to a head when their first child, Seth is taken away from them due to child protection concerns. Concerns that Fat claims she has no knowledge about.

How does her life spiral to the point in the prologue? 

To know that, you have to read the book. Because if I continue, I could give it all away.

While I was a bit sceptical about the book at the beginning due to the writing style, I realised how wrong I was once the plot and the issues grabbed me. It was one of those books I was unable to put down. You could understand Med’s confusion around his teenage daughter’s rebellion when neither of his older kids had behaved in this manner. You could also understand why Fat would stay in a relationship (if it could be called that) with a man like Haines. There are also comments about how the child protection authorities work in NSW as well as the health system. And for someone who works in the public health system and has to deal with child protection workers, I could totally feel the anger and the angst at the political correctness madness the system can get into. I loved how the story built up…from the present to the past and rejoining the present…all in the form of letters. And it kept you gripped wanting to know more. More about Fat’s past. More about what led her to kidnap this baby. More about who this baby was. It was heart-breaking in some instances as well and will make the reader question the system we live in. For someone who works as part of the system though, it comes as no surprise. Another thing I really enjoyed about the book was the local knowledge. While a lot of the past is set in Forster, the present is in Sydney. And knowing the landmarks and the suburbs has a connected feel to the whole thing. It almost makes the story feel real.

I give it a rating of 5. And I’m heading off to the library to get more of her books.

Trip of a lifetime

…by Liz Byrski.

Heather Delaney is a local Member of Parliament in Newcastle. Her life is thrown off balance when she gets shot at and injured. Problem is, she doesn’t know who did it or why they would target her. This attack doesn’t just affect Heather. Her older brother Adam and his second wife Jill who are already struggling fine that their marriage is even more stressful with Adam withdrawing into his shell with his music leaving Jill to question things. Then there is Shaun who works for Heather and who was also present at the time of the shooting. He battles with his responsibilities and his relationship. Diane, a woman volunteering in Heather’s office, can’t seem to get past her divorce two years ago and is bitter about everything. Heather’s aunt Barbara who is enjoying her rural retirement, is about to have things disrupted as well following the shooting. And finally, there is Ellis. Heather’s ex-flame. Who turns up on reading what has happened to her trying to be her knight in shining armour. And is determined to make the relationship work his way. Only to have Adam ruffled because of how he treated Heather in the past. But this is a secret no one is talking about.

I picked this book up on a whim at the library. I’d never heard of the author but thought I’d give it a shot. While the story line was gripping in some parts, there were several sections that dragged on for me and some which I found just completely unrealistic. Like how some people managed to change their personalities completely with some sort of epiphany. This, after being a certain way for almost 50 years. I also couldn’t identify with most of the characters…most of them being 50 plus years of age. In some ways you could say it is a book for older women but not necessarily in the chick-lit category. It also looks into families and the struggles of trying to keep up in society. The book did redeem itself with the ending I must admit but all in all, it wasn’t really a book that I just had to get to or had to read.

I give it a rating of 2.

Until next time,

Cheers!!!

***Note: This review has been cross-posted on my personal blog***

The Riders

…by Tim Winton.

Scully is setting up a life in Ireland while waiting for his wife Jennifer and 7 year old daughter, Billie to join him from Australia after settling things such as selling their home and bringing over everything else they own. Scully loves his wife, his daughter and Australia. But he decides to leave Australia for his wife’s sake…as she wants a change in their lives. On the day of their arrival, Scully goes to welcome them at the airport. Only to have the shock of his life. Billie arrives in Ireland but there is no sign of Jennifer. Jennifer who is pregnant, has not left any note with Billie or any message. Nothing. And Scully’s life falls apart. Thus ensues a search for Jennifer through countries they have previously visited as a family including Greece, France and the Netherlands.

This is a story about love and loss and a man’s search for a person he thought he knew. It is about the love of a man for his daughter and the love of a daughter for her imperfect father. There are some heart-wrenching moments especially when Billie is selectively mute possibly following the shock of her mother leaving. The pain Scully feels is real. On the downside though, a lot is left unanswered. For instance, the woman they meet on a boat who follows them around. Her motives are unclear. Her history is unclear. And finally, why has Jennifer left? Where has she gone to?

It is an interesting read if you are prepared for a number of things to be left open to the reader and not being answered completely. I guess in my mind, I was comparing it to Cloudstreet which I enjoyed a lot more and this did not live up to his other book. I give it a rating of 3.

Until next time,

Cheers!!!

***This has been cross-posted on my personal blog***