‘Cassie once told me that twins had special powers.’
Cub is ten years old. She lives with her parents, her twin brother Wally and their older brother Cassie on an isolated property, adjacent to an abandoned cattle farm and knackery. There’s a yellow weatherboard house just over the fence, where Cub’s Grandad Les lived. He died before Cub was born.
Cub’s aunt Helena and cousin Tilly move into the yellow house. Cub hopes Tilly will be her friend, while her mother Christine hopes to leave the past behind. The past? Christine’s father Les was a notorious serial killer who buried the bodies of his victims on the property where Cub and her family still live. Cub’s family is ostracised because of her grandfather’s crimes, but when the novel opens Cub herself is unaware of those crimes.
‘A lot of rumours fly around here,’ Dad said. ‘Best to ignore them.’
What can I write about this novel? It made me uncomfortable on so many levels. The only perspective we have is Cub’s and she is only ten years old. Her mother, Christine, hides from the past. Her father, Colin, tries to keep the family functioning. But Colin’s efforts, however well-intentioned, are inadequate. It’s clear that Cassie, Wally and Cub are adrift, are suffering. I dread what the future holds for this family and can only hope that Cub (at least) is able to move beyond the legacy of shame and guilt which is overwhelming her family.
Ms O’Grady has written a novel which, while it makes me very uncomfortable, has me thinking about the burdens borne by some families. I felt especially sorry for Cub’s older brother Cassie. He is the only one of the children to have known their grandfather. Cassie remembers him with affection. How can a man be both an affectionate grandfather and a serial killer? How does a child deal with this? I felt sad for a family so defeated by circumstances that they’d been unable to pack up and move out. By the end of the novel, I thought perhaps Cub might be the one who could move on it future. I hoped so.
Thank you, Ms O‘Grady, for writing a novel which will stay with me and haunt me for some time.