A sweaty palmed universal guilt stalks the relationship of itinerant loner Bernie and Ben, an innocent child in an Outback town debilitated by an oppressive heat that appears to distort the moral compass of its insipid inhabitants.
This suffocating environment appears to trigger a seemingly unexplained suicide which in turn stimulates a level of background noise and speculation, at the local school, which becomes deafening as an incredulous Ben starts to question the real cause of this tragic death and the role of a father who appears to be hiding a dark secret under a grey and impenetrable persona.
Mark Brandi creates a picture of decaying virtues viewed through a lens whose acuity appears to blur the hard edges of personalities as they assume the wild and untamed characteristics of the landscape. This works as a survival mechanism but ultimately results in an emotional myopia which blinds them to the miasma of hurt unravelling on their doorsteps.
Fab is the beating resilient heart of this story but this is an ironic moniker for a boy whose life is far from idyllic yet in his friendship with Ben he is able to fleetingly enjoy a childhood of cricket and fishing until the clouds begin to block out the sunlight.
The atavistic dominance of the alpha male is chillingly portrayed in this off the grid backwater with nascent social anarchy left unchecked by an apparently disinterested justice system that allows domestic violence to be meted out with no threat of retribution and a tacit acceptance of darker abuses become diluted by a communal apathy metaphorically induced by the pressure cooker intensity of existing in an environment of hopelessness and sense melting heat.
This is a book which draws you into a soul destroying human calamity given significant air time by today’s media yet till leaving the young and vulnerable to fight an unwinnable battle. This is not a book for the faint hearted but in its telling will hopefully leave an indelible inprint.
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