Cookbooks, newspapers, magazines, biographies, parenting books; non-fiction tends to fill my reading 'diet'. Last week though I had in my hands a book of fiction that had me reading it at the kitchen bench, in the car parked outside River's school gate and by torch light at night while Sol slept in bed next to me.
Melbourne author Peggy Frew's book House of Sticks is her first novel released late last year. I read a review of it when it was released and made a mental note to seek a copy out. It has taken me until now to secure a copy from the local library where it has been on a reserve waiting list for many months. And now I know why.
The love between Bonnie and her partner Pete is tested by the demands of raising young children without support from extended family and by the presence of Pete's old mate Doug whose life is defined by hard times and Pete feels obliged to extend the hand of friendship and take him on to work in his business making furniture. Bonnie's frustration simmers away as Doug takes advantage of Pete's generosity sauntering in and out of their home and Pete's backyard workshop eating their food and some days not turning up to work. Doug has an unnerving edge to him that leaves you guessing which way his actions will turn the story.
Frew writes of a fraught relationship between Bonnie and her mother Suzanne. A reluctant grandmother, Suzanne squeezes in an hour each week between her work commitments and playing bridge to spend with her daughter and grandchildren at the local pool. When Bonnie is pushed to dig deep and call on her mother for extra help with the children she does so with trepidation. Will Suzanne come to the party?
The other relationship Frew captures eloquently is the bond between mothers shown through Bonnie and her friend Mel. They share their woes grabbing snatches of conversation when dropping their children at kinder, or over coffee and babycinos at the local cafe and via text message. Mel is the friend that every mother feels blessed to have on her side.
Frew's observations and descriptions of the subtle details of the tensions and joys of family life connected me instantly to these characters and their story. I cared about what happened to them and read each page holding hope that all would work out well for each of them. Even Doug.
I am yet to meet a mother of small children who has not felt the relentlessness of parenting and domestic tasks weigh heavily on their spirit at times, it seems to be part of the job description and I'm still working out if or how that can be different. Until I come up with that answer I find solace in reading the stories of other women's lives be they fact or fiction.
Read a review here of House of Sticks and an interview with Peggy Frew here.
Happy wednesday to you all.