This story takes place on a sheep station in the Australian outback. It’s a credit to the author’s ability to set the scene that I was able to fully imagine this place, given that I would be hard-pressed to name a time I even knew of the existence of an outback sheep station.
I should probably disclose that I am a fan of Monica McInerney, having already read her books The Alphabet Sisters, and Family Baggage. When I saw this new book offered on NetGalley, I jumped on it. Once I began reading, the conversational tone drew me in, and the tale of this mildly dysfunctional family kept my attention. McInerney is a fun writer, and I find her stories balance out the tragedies of everyday life with humor and kindness. So yes, there are improbabilities in the plot, and there are a few characters who didn’t really ring true to me, but overall, there is the sense of family, and that deep care has been taken with this story.
Besides that, the plot of this book revolves around a common fear — that the email or letter you finally wrote, just to make yourself feel better, and never, ever to be mailed has been sent on it’s merry way to a hundred people of varying degrees of acquaintance. That, and the fact that in this case it’s one of those equally beloved and hated “Christmas letters” makes it even better.
So yes, there are lots of opportunities for fun with this premise, and McInerney does have some laughs. Ironically, I liked her daughters a whole lot better on paper (in her truthful letter) than I actually did when they ended up at her house. Having survived a childhood in the wilds of the outback, these girls are unbelievably ill-equipped to manage their fairly unencumbered lives. To put it mildly, they are a bunch of babies. This might have been fine for 18 – 20 year olds, but they are all closer to thirty here, which didn’t seem to match how they acted. In any case, this is a minor quibble in what amounts to a fun and interesting read. I enjoyed learning more about Australia, especially since we are seeing it through the eyes of an outsider, a transplant who has claimed the land as her own. And for me, Australia is Monica McInerney’s land, and I am happy to consider her my guide through the wilds of the outback.