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Review: Home At Last by Meredith Appleyard

on May 3, 2019

Home At Last
Meredith Appleyard
Harlequin MIRA
2019, 416p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

Flying solo can be harder than it looks … A warm-hearted rural romance about finding your way home. Flying solo for the first time had been the greatest high of Anna Kelly’s life. So when the chance of a dream job as a pilot with the Royal Flying Doctor Service comes up she takes it, even though she has to leave her home in Adelaide and move to remote Broken Hill – a place she had hoped she would never see again.

The bad memories the town provokes remind Anna why she keeps men at arm’s length but as her work proves fulfilling, her housemate becomes a friend and a warm community grows around her, Anna is surprised to discover that Broken Hill is starting to feel like home.

But there is no such thing as plain sailing and with errant mothers, vengeful ex-patients and determined exes on the prowl, life is becoming increasingly complicated. More than that, the distractingly attractive Flight Nurse Nick Harrison seems keen to get to know her better, and he has a way of finding a path through her defences. But will he still want her if the truth comes out?

I am always really interested in books with unusual settings, places I haven’t been that I think would be interesting to visit and Broken Hill is definitely one of those for me. In far western New South Wales, so remote it’s basically closer to Adelaide (and runs on South Australian time, despite being in another state), a mining town of pretty unrelenting heat and isolation, the Flying Doctor service plays a huge role. It can be the only way to get people on remote properties safety to larger towns for medical treatment.

Anna Kelly has her dream job – a pilot with the RFDS. She’s based in Broken Hill, servicing the surrounding community, which is a place she is familiar with. She lived there during her high school years when her father was the local high school principal. The place doesn’t hold warm memories for her in many ways and moving there from Adelaide also means that she’s separated from family members that she cares about, working hard to scrape together as much money as possible to improve their position. She rents a room in a house from a local nurse where they tend to work different shifts a lot of the time, their routines suiting each other.

Anna Kelly might not really remember Nick Harrison from high school but he certainly remembers her and he’s quite glad to see Anna back in town. Nick is working as a flight nurse, picking up any shift he can in order to get money together to escape a relationship gone sour. Nick definitely feels an attraction for Anna right away and he definitely wants them to get to know each other better. Anna is more reluctant, putting up barriers but eventually even she cannot deny the chemistry they have, which seems worth exploring. Even though several of Nick’s comments have made Anna keep quiet about something, fearing Nick will disappear if she mentions it.

I enjoyed this a lot – it’s an engaging read which tackles a lot of issues that I’m interested in. There’s exploration of separation of family, dissolution of marriage, poverty for the elderly, poverty in a remote town, medical issues in a remote town, post natal depression in both men and women, suicide and isolation. This is a book that manages to pack a lot into it without it ever feeling cluttered or that the issues are not explored in depth enough. Meredith Appleyard does a very good job weaving these different things together to make a very cohesive story. The local community really comes alive and I think I got a pretty good understanding of what it would be like to live in a place like Broken Hill. The book is at times, often a bit darker than I expected going in, but nothing felt out of place – if anything, these issues are probably more prevalent than I realise.

Anna is a very private person, for some reasons that I think are believable and well explained. She eventually becomes friends with her housemate and Nick, as well as Nick’s mother and one or two others around town, eventually building a little support group for herself where she can also support in return. In particular I quite enjoyed the relationship she strikes up with Nick’s mother – whereas Nick is often exasperated and frustrated with his mother and her issues, Anna does not have any judgement in a situation where I think quite a lot of people might be tempted to. Anna can be reserved but she also has a lot of warmth and compassion and this shines through a lot in her dealings with Nick’s mother.

I enjoyed Anna’s secret and how it played into the narrative. Given Nick’s situation and several of his offhand comments, I can see why Anna may have felt it was best to keep quiet, although this does go on for the longest time and it sort of gets to the point where you can tell everything is going to collide head on and Anna still has no idea what to do!

To be honest I enjoyed pretty much every single thing about this – I did find Nick a bit pushy at first, particularly when Anna is kind of trying to remain aloof but as the story got further on, it mellowed out a bit and I was able to enjoy him more as a character. His background was complicated but nothing that couldn’t be fixed – a bit like Anna’s.


Book #59 of 2019

Home At Last is book #29 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge

One response to “Review: Home At Last by Meredith Appleyard

  1. […] Home At Last by Meredith Appleyard. My review. […]

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