The Labyrinth by Amanda Lohrey

‘Why am I here, behind the dunes in this dusty old shack?  To be close to the prison, yes, but there is another reason.’

Erica Marsden has moved from Sydney to the fictional town of Garra Nalla on the south coast.  She has moved to be close to her son, Daniel, who is in a nearby prison.  Full of grief and guilt, needing to find a way out of the quandary she finds herself it, Erica wants to build a labyrinth.  A labyrinth was part of her past: there was one at the asylum where her father worked and where she and her brother grew up. 

‘The cure for many ills, noted Jung, is to build something.’

Erica has retreated to Garra Nalla, hoping that no-one will connect her with her son and his horrific crime.  Her relationship with Daniel is fractured, but she cannot abandon him.  Constructing a labyrinth may help, but Erica will need help.

What follows is a story about the burden of guilt, about relationships, about trust.  Erica is caught up in a world where she cannot be alone.  Daniel has asked Erica to destroy his books, a neighbour is annoying, intruders invade her space.

Can Erica find peace?  What about her relationship with Daniel? How does a parent deal with the horrific crime of a child?  And what about the labyrinth?

I have read this novel once, and I feel that I need to read it again.  This is no linear narrative with a neat ending.  It is a complex, multi-layered story with several well-developed, flawed characters.  Building a labyrinth involves taking advice and building relationships.  It also involves being flexible, considering the constraints of nature as well as the human limitations.

A beautifully written, disturbing novel.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith