Jane Harper: The Survivors

Jane Harper uses nature to deepen and further her stories more than almost any writer I can think of.  In her first novel, The Dry, the unrelenting heat and drought affecting Australia becomes a part of the story.  In this novel, set in Tasmania, an island off the coast of Australia, the story takes place in a tiny seaside resort town, and the ocean and the caves surrounding the town are as much a character as any of the humans populating the book.

This is a story of long held grief, secrets, and family dysfunction.  Ready to turn away? Not so fast.  Kieran Elliott has brought his partner Mia and his baby daughter Audrey home to help his mother pack.  His father has dementia and he’s moving to a home, while his mother is moving to an apartment near him.  The house is chaotic and full of boxes, and often all Kieran and Mia want to do it escape. read more

Susan Allott: The Silence

This is a very melancholy novel about people who live near each other, yet in isolation, thanks to a profound lack of communication.   It’s set in Australia in the late 60’s, with a portion in the late 90’s.  Two couples live side by side in a new neighborhood, right on the ocean.  Louise and Joe, immigrants from England, live in one house with their daughter, Isla.  Next door are Steve and Mandy, who are childless.  Mandy often looks after Isla.

As the book opens, the adult Isla gets a call from her father, who says the police have been by to discuss Mandy, who had disappeared from the neighborhood many years ago.  The central nugget of suspense in the novel concerns the relationships between the neighbors and between the couples themselves.  What happened in the past that caused Mandy to disappear?  Why would Isla’s father, who seems devoted to his family, have had anything to do with her disappearance? read more