Samantha Carmichael is 18 when her world is rocked – her parents are not actually her biological parents, she is adopted. And on top of that, Sam has a twin sister named Charlie who was not adopted out by their biological mother. Before Sam can really process why only one of them was offered up for adoption, she is also told that Charlie is sick, a form of leukemia. That is the only reason Sam is now being told, because Charlie’s best chance of a full recovery is a bone marrow donation from a close genetic match. As Sam and Charlie are identical twins, the match doesn’t come closer than that.
Sam wastes no time meeting Charlie and offering to help her. Having trouble relating to her adoptive mother now after the secrecy, Sam chooses to spend some time helping out Charlie some more by taking care of Charlie and their mother’s property, Brumby’s Run while Charlie fully recovers from her operation and gets healthy again. When she arrives, the property is not as she pictured – Brumby’s Run is struggling, tired and worn down and in need of some TLC. Sam soon finds herself immersed in the lifestyle, taking the job Charlie had lined up breaking brumbies. The two girls may look identical and be very, very different in their manner but it seems they have one thing in common: a deep love and passion for horses.
Soon Sam is falling in love with this beautiful countryside, Brumby’s Run, the wild brumbies and also Drew Chandler, the son of a neighbouring farmer. Drew has been around most days, helping Sam fit in, giving advice and generally just being there. The two of them are enjoying a steadily burgeoning friendship and Sam sees herself becoming part of this scenery. Back in Melbourne Charlie is feeling left out and restless, ready to pick up the reins and take her life back.
Everything Sam has done has been to help Charlie but the two of them have yet to spend much time together. They’ll have to negotiate a truce, learn to be sisters and see if they can’t both find a way to make a living out of Brumby’s Run.
Like the author Jennifer Scoullar, I grew up on a steady diet of Elyne Mitchell novels. I had the entire Silver Brumby series as a pre-teen and read and re-read them probably dozens, if not hundreds, of times. Thowra and Co instilled a love of horses in me that persists until this day, even though I don’t own a horse, nor have I ever been lucky enough to own one. They’re a past time that I unfortunately cannot afford, but I’ve managed to find other ways in which to be around them. When I can’t do that, books like this one hit the spot.
Sam and Charlie are so different, but Sam feels the loneliness of having been an only child keenly so she is more than willing to help out Charlie and their biological mother Mary any way she can. She’s also a bit at odds with her adoptive mother, both for the secrecy and something that her adoptive mother does while Sam is spending time with Charlie at the hospital, so it’s no hardship for her to agree to go to Brumby’s Run and try and keep it going while Charlie is recuperating. I really liked Sam, she was mature beyond her years – going to a remote property at 18 and attempting to run it wouldn’t be easy and I think she made an excellent go of it especially as her adoptive parents were quite wealthy and she was used to luxury. Brumby’s Run is quite primitive, with the sort of conditions that would’ve had a lot of city girls heading straight back for the bright lights. But Sam doesn’t do that – she knuckles down and starts getting the place cleaned up.
Helping Sam find her feet is Drew Chandler, son of the property-owner next door. Mistaking her for Charlie at first, Drew is the only person who knows that Sam isn’t actually Charlie – Sam finds it easier not to have to explain her complicated family history to the locals, most of whom don’t have much time for Mary and Charlie anyway. Sam falls in love with the beautiful wild Australian brumbies and becomes personally invested in their fate. Often considered to be pests to the natural habitat, they are rounded up in order to attempt to tame them. Other methods have in the past, involved culling them from the air. Sam wants to save all of them, horrified when she learns that the ones the Brumby Rescue organisation don’t buy may end up as bronc horses for local rodeos.
Although at times I queried the decision to make Sam so young and undertake so much in what is essentially her first summer of freedom after high school, I think in the end it managed to work because of her youthful enthusiasm for everything. Everything was a new experience for her and she threw herself into it wholeheartedly, which was refreshing and charming in its honesty. It also did work better to highlight the differences between Sam and Charlie – Charlie had not had anywhere near the privileged life that Sam had and her resentment and at times, childish behaviour about it wouldn’t have sat well on an older character.
Brumby’s Run is a lovely story of family and self-discovery, of love of the land and the wildlife that live on it. I’d recommend it to any fans of the rural literature genre or anyone that has a love of horses and a sweet love story.
Book #113 of 2012
Brumby’s Run is the 42nd novel read and reviewed for the Australian Women Writers Challenge