I can’t remember why I purchased this novel – cover maybe?
A stunning, simply told story of great compassion and insight, from the author of the Stella Prize-shortlisted An Isolated Incident. Nic is a forty-five-year-old trivia buff, amateur nail artist and fairy godmother to the neighbourhood’s stray cats. She’s also the owner of a decade’s worth of daily newspapers, enough clothes and shoes to fill Big W three times over and a pen collection which, if laid end-to-end, would probably circle her house twice. She’d put her theory to the test, if only the pen buckets weren’t currently blocked in by the crates of Happy Meal toys and the towers of Vegemite jars, take-away containers and cat food tins.
Nic’s closest relationship is with her niece Lena. The two of them meet for lunch every Sunday to gossip about the rest of the family and bitch about work (they’re both checkout chicks: Lena just for now, Nic until they prise her staff discount card from her cold, dead hands).
One Sunday, Nic fails to turn up to lunch and when Lena calls she gets a disconnection message. Arriving at the house she hasn’t visited in years (‘Too far for you to come, hon. Let’s meet in the middle.’) she finds her aunt unconscious under an avalanche of stuff.
Lena is devastated that her beloved aunt has been living in such squalor all this time. While Nic is in hospital, she gets to work cleaning things up for her. Her first impulse is to call in the bulldozers and start searching Gumtree for a roomy caravan. But with the help of her reluctantly recruited brother, Will, she gets the job done.
This heroic effort is not appreciated by the plastered up, crutch-wielding Nic. She returns to an empty, alien place unrecognisable as her home and the unbearable pity of her family who have no idea what they’ve destroyed. How can she live in this place without safety and peace? And how can she ever forgive the niece who has betrayed her.
This was a lovely story, generous and heart-warming. It’s about family, kindness and understanding. And what it really means to have a happy and successful life. I particularly enjoyed the descriptions of Nic’s stuff and how she felt about it.