This is an extraordinarily powerful book which captures the personalities of the human characters involved and, as we expect now from this author, introduces the vast and harsh Australian landscape as a character in its own right.
In this story the landscape is a ruthless killer, with vast, barren distances and the occasional lonely grave as testimony to this.
The central character, Nathan Bright, is a complex man, almost isolated from his family and totally isolated and shunned by his closest community. Ten years earlier he had been guilty of withholding the assistance that would have prevented the death of another man…but he had not provided that help and the town judged him harshly.
Even his closest family members, who lived on their vast adjoining property, seldom saw him or communicated. His wife had left him, taking their only son with her and he saw the boy only on the occasional outback visits to his father which he was legally required to make.
We meet Nathan and his son en route to spend Christmas with the family, but on the way there he discovers the body of his popular brother, Cameron, lying beside the lonely grave of a long-dead stockman. His car is not there and Nathan locates it 9 kilometres away, fully laden with food, water and the equipment needed for a routine property repair Cameron was about to undertake.
After authorities have been notified, Nathan and son Xander travel on to the family property. After the initial shock and grief at the news of Cameron’s death and the speculation about the circumstances, long buried family secrets begin to emerge. The fragile relationship between Nathan and his son Is tested and it becomes evident that there is more than one ‘lost man’ in this complex story.
Tenuous family relationships are explored and exposed and, without it being a cliched ‘happy ending’, I felt it provided a believable and satisfying resolution.
It is a beautifully constructed, sensitive story without the jarring notes which sometimes intrude into our Australian novels. The characters are believable, not perfect, but real, and we care about them.
Following her first two extremely popular and successful books (The Dry and Force of Nature), Jane Harper has been awarded a formidable number of awards and The Dry is currently being made into a film.
I thoroughly enjoyed this totally absorbing book and recommend it both as a read for your personal pleasure and as a great Christmas gift!
Producer/Presenter of The Good Life on 3MDR
Publisher: Pan Macmillian