All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: Outback Promise by Maggie Bolitho

on December 11, 2015

Outback PromiseOutback Promise
Maggie Bolitho
Harper Impulse (Harper Collins AUS)
2015, 203p
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

Can Ros and Grady move on from the past, or will their pain drive them apart?

Six years ago, the Balfours lost their son Cadel to a hit-and-run driver. A few months ago, Ros discovered Grady’s affair. With their marriage fast disintegrating, they decide to take a three-month camping trip into the heart of Australia to try and mend deep wounds and rekindle the fire that once fused them close.

This trip will decide the fate of their relationship: do they have enough strength and enough love left to accept what life has put them both through? But trust and forgiveness don’t come easily, and Ros and Grady have to navigate not only the wilderness of the Outback and the challenges of other travellers, but also the chasm of grief and bitterness they have sunk into over the last six years. Their only hope for survival lies in facing the secrets they have both tried to keep buried …

Woah. This one was a rollercoaster of things I did not expect.

I have to admit, I thought this was a fairly innocuous looking rural romance when I saw the cover. I was compiling a list of summer reads to take away with me – things I could laze around by the pool reading but after I downloaded this to my iPad, I read the description and became intrigued. I am not generally a fan of infidelity in books, mostly because I never find the attempts to justify it or explain it at all believable. It always just seems like selfish, jerky behaviour full of lies and self-indulgence. However, this is the first book I’ve read that presented to me a scenario that where not only could I believe it happening but I also thought it might be possible for a couple to move on from it. So that’s something definitely very new for me.

Ros and Grady had an ideal relationship, secure in their connection to each other and only strengthened by the arrival of their son Cadel. At just four years of age, Cadel was killed and Grady seriously injured in a hit and run accident. In the six years since, Ros and Grady have slowly fallen apart, become strangers. Ros discovered Grady’s affair (now over) but has yet to confront him about it. The two of them exist in separate worlds, revolving around each other but rarely coming together other than to have sex. When Grady talks of finally doing his dream trip, camping in the outback, it isn’t Ros’s cup of tea. But she agrees to go anyway, for three months alone with her husband. Maybe they can finally use that time to connect as a couple, to begin to heal and move forward. Or alternatively, maybe it will be the end of them, once and for all.

My youngest son Rory is four years old so I thought I’d find the parts about Cadel difficult but to be honest, they weren’t the hardest parts to read. Ros and Grady are both certainly still grieving and I think the aching isolation of their grief was by far the most difficult part of this story. This is a book that runs the gauntlet of emotions and they are leaping off every page. The narrative is Ros’s, so it’s her pain and anguish we experience for most of the book – Grady is her distant and then cheating husband. It causes the reader to develop an opinion on Grady early on I think, but there are always two sides to every story and it takes a long time for the bottled up emotions to explode. So long it’s actually a bit frustrating, because Ros is sitting on this knowledge of Grady having an affair and their marriage is barely a marriage and yet day after day they are just getting up and going through the motions in a way, almost like they’re strangers, but strangers who are intimate physically, because that seems to be the one area of their marriage that hasn’t suffered.

The thing that struck me most about this book was the reality of it. I had absolutely no trouble placing myself in Ros’s shoes and I could understand how such a devastating, senseless loss could cause a rift in the strongest of relationships. Both Ros and Grady feel guilt, that they didn’t/couldn’t do more to protect Cadel even though what happened wasn’t in any way either of their faults and almost killed Grady as well. The author perfectly captured the slow and steady disintegration of a marriage simply through the two of them just…..drifting. Not talking or connecting in any meaningful ways, just going through the motions each day, living as though in a haze. I was able to see, whilst I don’t condone, what might have driven Grady to latch onto anything that might have been able to make him feel. When Grady’s story comes spilling out, you get to see the other side, to realise that it wasn’t all as Ros has presented. She’s an unreliable narrator simply because she’s too emotionally invested, she’s only articulated what she has experienced and because she and Grady hadn’t ever spoken properly she hasn’t understood what he experienced. I think when you experience a tragedy like this, it’s hard to see and understand another person’s grief. All you can see and feel is your own and you can understand how couples become islands, just drifting in the same sea but never touching. Grady and Ros had no other children to focus and anchor them

I thought this book was fantastic. Amazingly well written and a deep and sensitive exploration of what must be a parent’s greatest tragedy.


Book #183 of 2015


Outback Promise is book #73 of my Australian Women Writers Challenge 2015

2 responses to “Review: Outback Promise by Maggie Bolitho

  1. Lily Malone says:

    Sounds like one to look out for, thanks Bree.

  2. Thank you so much, Bree. You completely understood what I was aiming for, from Ros and Grady’s eviscerating grief to the moral ambiguity that ensued.

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