Nine year old Adrian, abandoned by his father, his mother incapable of caring for him, lives with his grandmother (Beattie), a hard – but not unloving – woman who struggles to connect with, and nurture the quiet, sensitive boy. He calls her grandmonster, but not to her face.
Rory, Beattie’s twenty-five year old son and one of her three dysfunctional children, lives with them. He exists as a broken shell after driving his sports car into a telephone pole, a reckless move that cost him his best friend. The other boy did not die, but death, Rory thinks, would have been the better alternative than the living, breathing vegetable he became.
Every character in this book is broken, dysfunctional, wounded in some significant way. As most of the characters are children, it makes for a hard read, but a necessary one.
The story opens with the disappearance of three children, the Metfords, who headed out to get icecream and never came back. Adrian fears that he could disappear, just like those children did, and he wonders why anyone would want to steal a child. He thinks he has nothing to offer, he thinks he’s invisible… often-times he wishes he was.
This is a sad story of a lonely boy cast off onto a caregiver who loves him, but doesn’t want him. He is well cared for, loved, tended to, like a garden, but he is a boy who needs more… much more.
The winner of several Australian literary awards, shortlisted for another, this is a novel that sliced into my chest, carved it up and left me bleeding for days after reading it. Its subtle power is inspiring, and devastating.
The writing... well, it speaks for itself:
"Adrian shrugs, hopelessly confused. Joely is touching her nose with her tongue, chin tilted to the clouds. Giles gazes at nothing with the absent expression of the bored toddler; he balls a hand into his sister’s palm and hangs his weight off it, sleepily closing his eyes. The ironwork contorts round the faces of the children, frames them with wrestling coils. The evening has come down heavily, a haze of pearly-grey. Few cars travel this nowhere road, and the cold birds are all silent. Adrian comes cautiously forward, touching his wrists to iron. His lips and eyelids feel like icy wounds, his breath lingers under his nose. He hears himself asking, ‘Where did you come from?’
I have no more words… this book hurts, but damn, it's good!...Continua