If Anthea Hodgson’s debut novel were a song it would be John Lennon’s “(Just Like) Starting Over.” The story is a rural romance set in Western Australia and it’s about two free-spirited individuals and a wise old aunt. The two former characters could be classed as “drifters” and they are thrown together and forced to confront their demons and re-evaluate life.
Hodgson’s book has a few things in common with Karly Lane’s Tallowood Bound in that both protagonists go on a journey to the country and delve into the history of at least one strong female family member. Hodgson was able to draw some inspiration from her own life because she is a country girl at heart and in The Drifter she feeds in her experience of coming to terms with a loved one’s death.
Cate Christie was a carefree party girl who was obsessed with fickle fashion and drinking. Her life has been an aimless one full of dead-end jobs, but she is hit hard by the untimely passing of her best friend Bridget. This experience leaves Christie racked with guilt and remorse so she seeks solace away from the city lights on a dusty old farm owned by her aunt.
Aunty Ida is a relation that Cate doesn’t know particularly well. To Ida life in the country is heaven but this is a life that her neice is not particularly accustomed to. Over the course of the novel, however, Ida offers up some real pearls of wisdom and makes Cate stop and re-evaluate her life in much the same way as writer, Mitch Albom, was affected in Tuesdays With Morrie.
The Drifter‘s other main character, Henry, is a mysterious swagman who lives on Ida’s property in a mud-brick home. Ida is happy to have the young man around to help with things, but Cate doesn’t always agree with this. Henry and Cate sometimes work really well together, there is occasionally some sexual tension, but other times they are simply at loggerheads with one another, as they are both quite spirited in their approach to life on the farm.
The author does an excellent job of weaving together glimpses of Cate’s past life while also telling the story in the present. Her prose is easy to read and it is often peppered with great little witticisms and jokes. The story is a romance and often it feels quite light and breezy but there are greater emotions working in the background. It’s a promising angle overall, but it probably won’t change your life.
Anthea Hodgson’s The Drifter draws together some mysterious individuals and portrays them as a detailed character study. At its core it is an existential look at the reality of love, life and letting go. The novel is ultimately a gentle and pleasant look at life after tragedy and how we can all lean on our loved ones to help us stop, assess and rebuild.
Originally published on 27 September 2016 at the following website: http://magazine.100percentrock.com/reviews/book-reviews/201609/202013
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