After the Fire, a Still Small Voice
Evie Wyld
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Buy *After the Fire, a Still Small Voice* by Evie Wyld online

After the Fire, a Still Small Voice
Evie Wyld
Pantheon
Hardcover
304 pages
August 2009
rated 4 1/2 of 5 possible stars

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The vast beauty of the Australian landscapes are a seething force in this powerful novel of a father and son separated by time and place, but not necessarily by circumstance. The sunlight, the sea, the shifting fields of cane, the butcher birds gargling into the heavens, and the ever-shifting blue gums light up parts of Frank Collardís heart which have, for many years, been hidden.

Frank travels from Canberra to a small town on the eastern part of the continent, leaving behind his life after breaking up with his girlfriend. Melancholy and disconsolate, Frank makes a new home for himself in his grandparents dilapidated 1950's shack deep amid the cane fields, dirt roads, and vast sand dunes of this isolated but quite beautiful place.

Frank finds a measure of peace in the pale sky and the morning dew, the gurgling troops of magpies and the smell of hot eucalyptus trees. He connects with a local couple, Bob Haydon and his wife, Vicky. Their daughter, seven-year-old Sal, helps Frank plant a vegetable garden and feed his two adopted chickens.

Frank is attracted to the easy laughs of this family, who mostly eke out a living from fixing up cars and keeping chooks. Meanwhile, Frank embarks on a spiritual epiphany, remembering his father, Leon, as he poured his motherís ashes into the sea. As the memories come to Frank, the old ones he'd thought he was finished with, Leon still bears the emotional wounds inflicted by his time in Vietnam, the memories a discomfort and steady reminder of that conflict.

We first meet Leon when heís a young boy, helping his parents run their cake shop in Parramatta. The son of Jewish-Italian immigrants, Leon is the only boy in his year at school with a hairy face. There's no doubt he feels distinctly out of place in this Anglo-Saxon world of Australia in the 1950s where the British National anthem is constantly hummed and elements of racism play a powerful force.

This very same Leon will be transformed by his youth while Frank becomes a cipher for much of Leonís life, the son who has drifted apart from his father. When a young local girl goes missing, Frank is branded as the predator when he takes off in his rusted ute, traveling to the town of Roedale, a mixed bag of dust and meat, to try to reconnect with Leon, now a middle-aged born-again Bible seller.

A uniquely Australian story, Wyldís novel poetically brings to life the dusty seaside towns where the locals are tough, weather-beaten and compliant, While Frank and Leon are unable to regain their trusted bond, Frank finds much to love in his isolation and collects a few new mates along the way. Leon finds support on his own. Locked in a small town, his tale is mostly one of brokenness, loss, and the slow healing process that remains after war and death have had their due.



Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at www.curledup.com. © Michael Leonard, 2010

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