The Wounded Sinner by Gus Henderson

‘It was still dark and Matthew liked it that way.’

Matthew spends his life travelling between Leonora and Perth in Western Australia.  His partner Jeanie and their five children live in Leonora, but Matthew needs to travel over 800 kilometres to help take care of his ageing father, Archie, in his large decaying home in Perth.  Three weeks out of every four, Matthew is away from home.  Jeanie and the children cannot accompany him: Jeanie is an Indigenous woman and Archie is an opiniated bigoted racist. 

Jeanie is not happy with this situation: she is restless and wants more from life.  She has moved to Leonora to try to reconnect with her heritage.  Orphaned as a baby, she was brought up by a non-Indigenous couple. Jeanie straddles two cultures, without fully belonging to either.

Matthew sets off for Perth.  His car breaks down.  A stranger, Vince, stops to help him. Vince decides the car cannot be fixed, and he offers Matthew a lift.  Both will be surprised when Matthew’s car later passes them.

Matthew and Vince spend quite a lot of time together after they arrive in Perth.  Vince has problems in his marriage, and Matthew does not mind the company while trying to deal with his father. Back in Leonora, Jeanie has some problems of her own.  She learns a bit about her Indigenous heritage but also needs to listen to her daughter Jaylene.

‘Expectation is the bastard child of imagination.’

I found this novel challenging because of the issues it deals with.  Vince, Matthew, and Jeanie each have ageing parents.  Each of them will need to come to terms with this. Their personal relationships are under strain: Vince’s wife has left him, and Matthew and Jeanie struggle because of different loyalties and expectations.  While Jaylene was the individual I felt most sympathy for, I thought that Mr Henderson really portrayed Jeanie’s struggle between upbringing and heritage particularly well.

Life is not straightforward for any of these characters, but I finished the novel hoping that things just might improve with a little more communication.

My thanks to Lisa  ( whose review ( led me to read this novel.  If only she could deliver me additional reading time at the same rate as she introduces me to books that I really want to read.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith