The Fine Color of Rust: A Novel by P. A. O’Reilly (Washington Square Press, $15.00, 283 pages)
I never bother locking the house in this kind of heat. It we shut the windows we’ll never sleep.
Gunapan is a made-up name for a town in Australia situated within driving distance of Melbourne. Author P. A. O’Reilly brings her reader into hot, dusty inland Australia with the sights, sounds and textures of rural life. A seven-year drought has produced a landscape that begs to be soothed by rain. Moreover, numerous ladies of the town have been deserted by their husbands, leaving them to care for the children.
Loretta Boskovic, the main character, is struggling at a low paying job to support her daughter Melissa and son Jake in the wake of husband Tony’s departure several years ago. Norm, who owns the town junk yard, is Loretta’s best friend and confidante. There are the usual class distinctions as wealthy land owners living nearby flaunt their leisure and luxuries. They magnify the disparity between themselves and the ordinary folks in Gunapan.
The Fine Color of Rust is an engaging tale of persistence, friendship and commitment. Loretta is a heroine who draws from her inner strength to fight the closure of Halstead Primary, the local school. Her poverty in no way diminishes the quality of her efforts as she seeks to persuade local and central government officials to keep Gunapan’s school. Melissa and Jake are vulnerable kids who long for their dad’s return to the family.
Be prepared to really care about the best characters in this story as each one is portrayed in-depth for the reader. Although this is a novel, there are a few small mysteries that run like underground streams throughout. Rather than propel the plot, they add dimension and motivation for Loretta as she follows her passion to keep Halstead Elementary from closing.
Readers of Sophie Littlefield’s A Bad Day for… series will enjoy this change of scenery.
A review copy was provided by the publisher. “…a story about love, where we look for it, what we do with it, and how it shows up in the most unexpected places.” Big Issue, Australia
Note: Chook Lit (a bit like Chick Lit) is a slang term used in Australia to describe stories set in the Outback and/or those depicting the gritty realities of life in the rural areas of the Land Down Under.