Review published on April 9, 2013.Reviewed by Sara Garland
Nudge Reviewer Rating:
[product sku=”9781908737199″]Shortlisted for the commonwealth Book Prize and Queensland Literary Awards in 2012, this is a story about a family arriving in the small town of Reception in Australia and the strange goings on they encounter.
Simon is the central character. He is an 11 year old boy, who travels to the isolated town with his parents to see his sick grandmother. What starts as a quiet adventure turns into a more horrific excursion when Simon is left at the Ottoman Motel whilst his parents go to see a nearby lake, never to return.
Simon is an only child, shy and socially impotent. When his parents don’t return from their outing, he needs to alert someone. He heads for the local café, which they as a family had popped into whilst trying to find their motel. Here, the locals alert the local police and arrange for Simon to be looked after by Ned a nearby B&B owner.
Whilst Simon is met with some kindness, not everybody is as they seem. It transpires most have moved to this unknown, inconspicuous place to escape a past life and have personal secrets. From the local aged gloomy fisherman, with very suspicious backgrounds, to the local police woman harbouring her own secrets and inabilities, everybody seems to be facing their own demons. There is a sinister undercurrent running throughout the book – who is as they seem, is anybody actually trust worthy?
Paradoxically, the hotel owner lost his wife under mysterious circumstances and his children are deeply affected by this in their own way. Ned’s children at times can prove hard to communicate with or conversely very forthright, when they interact with Simon. In an almost enigmatic way, the directness, albeit challenging actually helps Simon to grow in confidence; something that could not have been anticipated or expected in such circumstances.
Quietly brave in the face of adversity, Simon develops a bond with some of these children, which allows them to start to unveil what has happened to his parents. As such the background about each of the main characters starts to be revealed and so you learn more about their foibles and the reasons why they act like they do. The interface between Simon and the B&B owner’s unusual children is very convincing and absorbing. It is also the most well written aspect of the book.
The mystery underpinning this is intriguing and fascinating. The pace is comfortable and engaging, easily read with some beautifully descriptive sentences. Simon is a convincing and likeable character, not always easy to achieve with such a young main character. The ending whilst perhaps not the strongest, does leave you with a few loose ends to ponder on after its denouement.