About The Book
“I never had words to ask anybody the questions, so I never had the answers…”
Abandoned by her mother and seldom visited by her unpredictable, violent father, 10-year-old Justine is raised by her grandfather, Pop – a man tormented by visions of war. Through years of poverty and neglect, Justine finds solace in the staggering natural beauty of the nearby Murray River. But when outside threats infiltrate even this sanctuary, who is there to protect her from danger?
Exposed to a lethal world, Justine must navigate the final years of her precarious childhood alone. She must find ways to endure, she must run when she has to, and, ultimately, she must fight back.
With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. I first became aware of this novel when I saw a tweet from the UK publisher about the Murray River in Australia and it’s connection to the book. It was somewhere I had visited on holiday, near to Echuca, so I was very keen to read it.
The river played a big role in the novel. It helped keep Justine calm and it’s where she went when she needed some time to herself. At times, I thought she considered it a friend and got more comfort from it than anything else.
She had a strange life. She lived with Pop her grandfather and the chooks. The conversations that both of them had with the chooks were wonderful to read. There were also two half brothers, an aunt and a father they were all better off without.
Whilst Justine always had to deal with a lot, loneliness, neglect and bad schooling her situation deteriorated when she became a teenager. It was devastating what happened to her but it also gave her focus and a chance for a new life.
I thought Justine and Pop were amazing characters. Pop had a bad war, like many, but he tried to do his best for Justine. Many would see his attempts as lacking but I really think he only wanted the best for her. He tried to get his son to be more of a father and struggled more than the children when that didn’t happen.
Michael, Justine’s school friend was also a delight. Devoted, caring and struggling with disability he wasn’t prepared to be unseen or ridiculed. I loved the scenes where he appeared.
And while her life changed over the five years or so that the book covers the river flowed on.