Sex, Lies & Bonsai
Harper Collins AU
Copy courtesy of the publisher/author
Edie has had to deal with being a disappointment her whole life. The daughter of a famous Australian surfer, a world champion, Edie has never excelled out on the waves. Despite the fact that she hasn’t been in the ocean since she was 12, her father always tries to encourage her to grab a board and hit the surf. He’s sure that one day, she’ll get back out there. Edie isn’t.
Dumped via a text message, Edie has fled Sydney back to her father’s house in Darling Head in northern NSW to heal, taking only a small and wilting bonsai that seems to view her with some disdain. Her best friend and life coach Sally is convinced that she can help Edie overcome her crippling shyness and awkwardness by putting her in a series of situations that help her take initiative and force her to maintain contact with people. Edie has never had the ability to converse easily with strangers – as a string of humiliating situations prove. A poet, Edie finds herself harbouring a newfound talent for erotic writing, her unrequited lust for her boss at her boring day job of drawing crab larvae fueling her passionate offerings. When they suddenly ‘go viral’ around her small town, Edie is horrified. But the erotic writings are bringing forth a lot of surprises, and not all of them are bad. Sometimes what you’re looking for turns out to be much closer to home than you ever realised.
Sex, Lies & Bonsai is a charming second novel from Australian author Lisa Walker. I read Walker’s first novel, Liar Bird last year and enjoyed it hugely so when she contacted me and asked if I’d like to review this one, I jumped at the chance. A few Australia Post glitches later and finally a copy landed on my doorstep (two actually, see the bottom of this post for more on that) and I bumped it straight to the top of my reading pile. Walker lives on the north coast of NSW herself, only a small distance from where I myself grew up so I always feel that the settings in her books feel like home for me. I started this one in the evening and ended up reading until I’d finished it at 1am. It’s a rare occurrence that I stay up reading that late these days.
It’s hard not to like Edie. She’s just been dumped and by a text message no less. She’s still grieving the loss of her boyfriend and she’s holed up in her family bedroom trying to avoid talking about surfing with her father and his girlfriend, who naturally, also surfs. It’s a small town and everyone knows who she is. People who newly meet her always ask for her father’s autograph, or assume that like him, she’s a surfing pro and ask who her sponsors are. Edie lacks the natural self-confidence of her best friend Sally and she spends most days at work drawing pictures of crab larvae and daydreaming about her older boss, who is very much married.
When her father’s girlfriend announces that her younger brother is coming to stay for a while, Edie feels a little resentment. Even though she herself is doing the same thing that he is coming here to do, she doesn’t really want him here. And that feeling only intensifies when she realises that he was the stranger she tried to have a conversation with on the beach that morning. But there’s more to Jay than meets the eye – he’s recovering from something too and Edie finds him understanding her crippling awkwardness in his own way, especially when it turns out that he knows exactly what it’s like to have a very well known father.
This book is a perfect blend of humour and tenderness. While Edie’s foray into erotica and her attempts to be brave had me chuckling and also cringing for her, there are some truly beautiful moments in this book. Edie has a lot of baggage that she’s dealing with – being in her father’s shadow, people always assuming things about her, feeling as though she is a disappointment to him. She’s also dealing with what happened to her mother and her own actions revolving around that, searching for someone that she hopes can give her the answers that she seeks. Although I’m not quite as shy as Edie, I lack the ability to make conversation with strangers too without sounding incredibly contrived and awkward and ending up embarrassed. I’ve also been dumped in the 1990’s version of a text message so I found that I related to her a lot. Sometimes I just wanted to tell Sally to leave her be, because that sort of interaction with strangers is a very difficult thing to learn if it doesn’t come naturally and Edie didn’t have a lot of trouble relating to Sally, or interacting with her boss, even if she was harbouring a little crush on him. And once she got to know Jay, she also was able to talk to him as well, and share things with him. Reading them becoming closer and getting to know each other felt very genuine. It wasn’t a smooth ride, for either of them and at times it’s cover-your-eyes embarrassing to read as they try and negotiate their new feelings. But it reads so real, rather than all smoldering good looks and sexually charged encounters that pepper books these days. And the ending pleased me – Edie didn’t change her plans because she’d come to an understanding. She still undertook something new and scary and I enjoyed seeing her doing that and come into her own a little bit.
Sex, Lies & Bonsai is a very enjoyable novel, refreshingly real and distinctly Australian in voice and setting with quirky characters that you’ll end up coming to care about. Makes me want to re-read Liar Bird now.
Book #36 of 2013
Sex, Lies & Bonsai is the 17th novel read & reviewed for AWW2013
And now, thanks to the very generous author, I have one copy of this one to give away to one of my Australian readers. Because Australia Post oddly decided to hoard the first copy at their local depot for a whopping 2.5 months without telling me, the author graciously sent me a second copy. And when I went to collect that one, I also was given the first copy as well, that had been lost in limbo. Simply fill in the form to enter.