What a charming read this one was despite the subject matter and perfect for an escape from Melbourne’s interminable lockdown.
We meet Mercy a woman who in the first chapter is thrust out of her burning home in the middle of the night and with nowhere to go finds herself back in her ex-husband’s house with his unwelcoming partner. She is a woman riddled with grief, anxiety and panic attacks but finds herself way out of her comfort zone when she purchases a run-down campervan and takes off from Adelaide for a three-thousand-kilometre trip through outback Australia.
The opening line packs a punch compelling you to read on and on. “Mercy Blain’s house was on fire, but that wasn’t her biggest problem.”
And we wonder what her biggest problem is and how she got into her predicament. It’s a road trip of stunning landscape but it’s also a journey of healing as Mercy meets her fears head on in order to survive. Little by little the reader gains an understanding of Mercy, willing her on despite the obstacles of a huntsman spider passenger, an unreliable vehicle, the cremated remains of unknown woman, dubious phone reception and of course, a journalist who had humiliated Mercy in the media. Along the way she meets other campers, grey nomads and a young Scotsman who all try to help in their own friendly ways.
The other star of this novel is Wasabi, a sausage-dog whose personality and love for Mercy is very touching. Not being a dog lover myself, I was almost yearning for my own Wasabi by the time I finished this book. You can’t help but fall in love with him.
As for the journey, it’s a wonderful travelogue of a part of Australia I have yet to visit. And yes, I’m planning my own trip and with the help of a very handy map at the beginning of the novel, it should be easily achievable. Oh wait, I still have to get a very old campervan. Perhaps another mode of transport then instead?
A very enjoyable book to read and a terrific advertisement for travel up the middle of Australia.