Excited Book Review of The Choke

the-chokeSofie Laguna’s The Eye of the Sheep won the 2015 Miles Franklin – and is one of my favourite reads of recent years.  So when I was offered a review copy of her latest, The Choke, I could not say yes fast enough.

The Choke is destined to win awards too.

Laguna excels at writing complex child narrators, and placing them in dangerous worlds.  But thats where the similarities between these two books end.

Justine is a girl abandoned by both father and mother and living with her ailing grandfather in a remote place known as the choke – where the bush meets the river.  She’s not neglected, but certainly lives a simple lifestyle in a man’s world.  It’s a violent world too – and Laguna makes this apparent even in describing children’s play in the opening chapter.

School is no refuge either – at least, not until she befriends a young disabled not who is also an outsider.  But not even this can save her from the violence in her world.  Before she is 14 she has witnessed and experienced abuse.  And your heart will break.  I doubt anyone could read this story and not be moved by what Justine experiences – and perhaps more powerfully, how she turns something just awful into something potentially beautiful.  There were tears in my eyes as I closed the final pages.  This is not to be missed.

Book Review of Julie Bucktin’s Debut – Marlena

Two friends juMarlena_new.inddst don’t know that disaster is waiting for them around the corner.

While we all try on new identities in our youth as a way of trying to manage the enormous possibilities of who
we are and what we will become – sometimes we make damaging choices that never leave us.

When studious Cat finds herself in Silver Lake, a tiny town in rural Michigan, she could not be further away from her New York private school.  Just as the loss of the life she imaged begins to hit her… a new best friend stands ready and waiting.  Marlena.
Marlena is daring and exciting – but also troubled.  She introduces Cat to a fast-paced life of drinking, soft drugs, boys and skipping school.  And while we see Cat’s downward spiral, even more alarming is the reader’s realisation that what is happening to Marlena is even more profound.

Marlena was a book that was difficult to put down. It’s a novel about friendship and youth and that feeling of indestructibility that sadly we must learn just isn’t real.  This is an impressive debut novel that read flawlessly.