Too Much Lip by Melissa Lucashenko

‘Too much lip, her old problem from way back.  And the older she got, the harder it seemed to get to swallow her opinions.’

Kerry Salter heads home.  She cannot avoid it now: her Pop is dying.  She heads home on a shiny new Harley-Davidson Softail.  Her first conversation is with three crows: one bites a dead snake on the head, and its fangs wedge the bird’s beak shut.  Kerry feels ‘certain the crow was going to spend several hideous days before starvation claimed it.  But he hadn’t ridden three hours to worry about a doomed waark.’

That doomed crow is a sign of what is coming.  Kerry gets back to Durrongo and heads back into a family caught up in a cycle of family dysfunction, carrying its history of injustice.  She’s only planning on staying for twenty-four hours, but things don’t go at all according to plan.

This story is ‘in your face’ confronting.  Problems from the past are part of the story as is a current threat.  Jim Buckley, the mayor of Durrongo, wants to build a prison on the Salters’ ancestral land.  There’s important family history associated with the land, and Kerry’s older brother Kenny is keen to sort out Jim Buckley.  Kerry’s younger brother, Black Superman, who has made a life for himself in Sydney, can’t escape either.  And there are old wounds to be treated as well as secrets to be uncovered and managed.

I do not want to write more about the story because much of the power of it is in the way Melissa Lucashenko tells it.  These pages are peopled with complex humans: people trying to do the best they can with limited resources in circumstances that are often hostile.  Difficult issues are addressed, with insight and compassion and humour.

I finished this novel feeling uncomfortable with many of the issues raised but also feeling that I had a better understanding of at least some.

‘You can go as far as you like, but the past always comes along for the ride.’

Jennifer Cameron-Smith



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