‘How has it all come to this?’
There are three main characters in this dystopian novel, set in an Australia which has largely been sold off to overseas interests. Rural towns are being closed by a remote central government, people are being displaced and dispossessed. The land is dry and food is limited. But the problems are not just confined to Australia: the countries and regions of the world are being realigned. Who cares about the human cost?
The main characters are Clare McDonald, Granna Adams and her grandson Roberto (Robbie). Clare walks the streets of Myamba most nights. She walks to escape: it’s the moving that matters. Clare thinks about the towns being closed, and what it means. Granna Adams creates and distributes care packages for those who have lost loved ones, their livelihoods, their homes. Robbie loves Ella, but they are often apart. Robbie travels around the world in search of newsworthy topics while Ella is a human rights worker, settling refugees where they are ordered to go.
From the opening page, this novel captured my attention. I was drawn in before I really had any idea of who the characters might be and where the story was heading. While Robbie’s story captured my heart, it was Clare and Granna who keep hope alive. These two very different, resilient women combine forces in Granna’s home, the House of Many Promises, to try to improve life for others. They do: in part because of the foresight of the man who originally built the house, and the rest you’ll need to read for yourself.
This is one of those novels which is best read, not explained. The components lack the magic of the whole. It’s imaginative, and disturbingly possible. This is Ms Abbott’s debut novel, and won the inaugural Richell Prize for Emerging Writers in 2015 from a field of almost 1000 entries.