The Prettiest Horse in the Glue Factory by Corey White

The current thinking in social work circles is that there are better long-term outcomes for children left with their family in an unstable home, than those removed and placed in foster care. This was in the back of my mind as I read comedian Corey White’s recently published memoir, The Prettiest Horse in the Glue Factory.

The details White shares of his childhood made me sick with fear from the first page. His father adored him but belted his wife and daughters. His mother, a drug addict, would disappear for days at a time. White was sexually abused by a ‘friend’ of the family, and as a young child he was violent toward his mother and sisters.

I drink in my father’s anger, see how it makes him glow and other people cower, and I repeat it. I punch my mother in the stomach and call her a stupid slut. Continue reading

The Fragments by Toni Jordan

I’m prefacing this review by saying that I like Toni Jordan’s writing (and in particular, Addition was a terrific book).

The Fragments is a literary mystery (in every sense of the word). The story alternates between 1930s New York and Brisbane in the 1980s. In New York, celebrated author Inga Karlson dies in a fire and her highly anticipated second book is also burnt, leaving just a few scorched fragments of the manuscript. Continue reading

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty

I wasn’t planning on reading What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty – I appreciate that she writes books that smash the ‘beach reads’ category (excellent twists, funny, and light, easy reading) but they’re not really my thing. What Alice Forgot has been sitting on my Kindle for seven years and I was reminded of that when it popped up as an available audiobook in my library’s stupidly meagre audio offerings. Having just finished a dense book about the Holocaust, listening to the wonderful Caroline Lee read Moriarty was ideal. Continue reading

Exploded View by Carrie Tiffany

Exploded View by Carrie Tiffany is a brutal and intense novel about the abuse of a teenage girl.

The unnamed narrator focuses on her family – her mother, her brother and her mother’s new partner, referred to as ‘father man’. The man runs an unlicensed mechanic’s workshop in the backyard. The girl shows her resistance with the only weapons she has at her disposal – silence and sabotage. She slips out at night to remove bolts, sever pipes and loosen screws in the engines the man is working on. Continue reading

Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak

Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak

For how do you walk towards your father without being a son? How do you leave home without realising where you’re from?

This book… it’s a 568 page poem about brothers, running, fathers, a bridge, mistakes, Homer’s Odyssey, mothers, stories, dying, legacies, horses and a mule, clay, painting, David and the slaves, reading, Pont Neuf, grief, refugees, an engraved lighter, a piano, a typewriter, a peg…

…there was always a bulkiness to us. A bursting at the seams. Whatever we did, there was more: More washing, more cleaning, more eating, more dishes, more arguing, more fighting and throwing and hitting and farting… It didn’t matter how in control or on-top-of-things were, there was chaos a heartbeat away. We could be skinny and constantly agile, but there was never quite room for all of it – so everything was done at once. Continue reading

The Year of the Farmer by Rosalie Ham

I savoured what I’m sure will be a once-in-a-lifetime thing – a fabulous, darkly humorous novel about water entitlements.

The Year of the Farmer by Rosalie Ham centres on farmer Mitch Bishop. Mitch comes from a long line of sheep and wheat farmers, however, Mitch fears the family’s farm, Bishop’s Corner, will end with him – a drought; the departure of his childhood sweetheart and his subsequent marriage to the scheming Mandy; his ageing father; and the ever-increasing demands of the State Water Authority, are all taking their toll. But water politics, new owners at the local pub, and Mitch’s closest friends have a way of changing things. Continue reading

The Van Apfel Girls Are Gone by Felicity McLean

The Chamberlain case was the background to my entire childhood. Outside, we had smiling Safety House signs screwed to each letterbox in the street. Every house safe. Every house a refuge. While inside, the court case of a mother alleged to have murdered her child played out each night, in prime time, in the lounge room.

Yes, this is my memory too. And that adults all had an opinion about Lindy Chamberlain. However, The Van Apfel Girls Are Gone by Felicity McLean is not an account of the Chamberlain case. Instead, the case provides an interesting parallel to the fictitious part of this book –  the disappearance of the three Van Apfel sisters, Hannah, the beautiful Cordelia and Ruth. Continue reading

Some Tests by Wayne Macauley

A few years ago, I decided to get to the bottom of my frequent migraine headaches. It was the beginning of an eight month process of tests (mostly ‘ruling things out’), visits to four doctors, and various medications and procedures. My experience ended with an iron infusion which ultimately made all the difference to my migraines, however, there were moments on this medical merry-go-round when I thought I was wasting my time and money.

Wayne Macauley captures this exact situation in his strange novel, Some Tests. Continue reading