All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: The Drifter by Anthea Hodgson

on November 14, 2017

The Drifter
Anthea Hodgson
Penguin Random House AUS
2016, 354p
Read from my local library

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Cate Christie is a party girl, unable to commit to anything, until she is involved in a tragic accident that changes everything. To escape her guilt and her parents’ bitter disapproval, Cate leaves Perth for her aunt Ida’s isolated farm in country Western Australia.

Henry is a drifter, a young swagman-like character who wanders onto the Christie family property and takes up residence in a disused shed. With secrets of his own, the last thing he wants is to get tangled up in Cate and Ida’s lives.

Against their own better judgement, the fates of Cate and Henry and Ida inexorably intertwine and they learn to face the realities of life, death and letting go.

A witty, charming and moving debut rural romance about what makes a good death and, more importantly, what makes a good life.

Recently a friend recommended this to me with the claim that it was the ‘perfect rural’. I thought I definitely had to try something that had attracted such high praise because I’m always looking for good rurals, I find them really perfect for when I am either in a reading slump or can’t decide what to read next. My local library had it sitting on the shelves so I thought I would check it out and now I am definitely going to have to buy my own copy for my keep shelf because I absolutely loved this.

Cate is a party girl, living up life in the city in a blur of nights out with her friends and temporary jobs that don’t really go anywhere. She’s about the experience and her parents have expressed their frustrations at her lifestyle but Cate doesn’t care because she’s too busy having fun. Until a tragic accident sends her fleeing the city to her aunt Ida’s isolated farm. When Cate arrives she realises that her idea to stay at the farm and ‘help out’ might not be such a bad one. Aunt Ida is clearly struggling with some things and she could definitely use a hand around the place. And someone to deal with the fact that there’s a stranger bunking down on the property.

Cate negotiates the stranger, Henry’s help around the farm for some of the more muscle jobs in exchange for staying in residence. Both Cate and Henry have secrets but almost against their will they build a friendship with a definite undercurrent and it is amazing. I loved both of them together so much. Cate is in a real state of almost breakdown and she’s suffering from both grief and guilt in equal measures. She is forced to reevaluate her life and decide if the way she’s been living is the way she wants things to be or is this a good reason to find something that she really wants to do? To make a commitment to something, instead of just drifting from one temp job to the next, banking enough cash for cute outfits and nights out. At first heading to the farm feels very much like Cate is hiding – avoiding her parents and their judgement and demands that she sort herself out as well as other people whom she feels she has caused pain. Cate’s journey of accepting the tragedy of what has happened and moving past it forms the backbone of the entire story. She’s able to find a place that she belongs, forge a new relationship with her Aunt Ida and truly get to know her and also get to know the farm and the local community. Cate becomes involved in the running of the farm and instrumental in bringing it back to life again and she also becomes part of the community as well, participating in bakes and church meetings. It’s a form of acceptance that I’m not sure she really had previously and it means a lot to Cate that even when some discover why she’s there in the first place, they still accept her and support her.

The characters in this novel are so full of life and realness (is that a word?). I loved the character of Aunt Ida and the way that she and Cate reconnect and her memories of her late husband. I feel as though she added a real dose of warmth and humour to the book and she was the sort of character that I believe many readers will identify with as she’d remind them of a grandmother or aunt or great aunt or someone that they know. Aunt Ida’s friends are also colourful and the sort of get-things-done country ladies that are probably the backbone of a lot of small towns. I liked the scenes with them all together, there was a real sense of camaraderie and devotion but in an understated kind of way.

And then there’s Henry. Man did I love Henry. He’s a mysterious, possibly even slightly shady character in the beginning, living in an unused outbuilding, helping himself to a spare fridge. He’s basically minding his own business but has helped Ida out in unseen ways but then finds himself confronted by Cate. Their abrupt interactions give way to something deeper and honestly, I was on board for the whole thing a ridiculous amount. They have oodles of chemistry and deep down, they have a lot in common. I had a fun time guessing Henry’s secret (as well as Cate’s actually) and thoroughly enjoying the ride of their relationship. They both made mistakes but there was also true acceptance between them.

This book made me bawl my eyes out like a million times, so maybe read with tissues! But it’s absolutely amazing, probably one of my favourite reads for the year. Can’t wait for Anthea Hodgson’s next novel, The Cowgirl. The good thing about it taking me so long to read this? I only have a couple of months to wait for that next book.

9/10

Book #178 of 2017

The Drifter is book #54 of my participation in the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2017

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