All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: The Farm At Peppertree Crossing By Lèonie Kelsall

on July 30, 2020

The Farm At Peppertree Crossing
Lèonie Kelsall
Allen & Unwin
2020, 4332p
Read via my local library/RB Digital

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

An unexpected inheritance, a traumatic past and a family whose secrets are kept by the town

After a fractured childhood spent in foster homes, city-girl Roni has convinced herself that she has no need of anyone – other than her not-as-tough-as-he-looks rescued street cat, Scritches, and her unborn baby, who she’s determined will feel all the love she’s been denied.

Despite facing a bleak future, Roni distrusts the news of a bequest from an unknown aunt, Marian Nelson. But, out of options, she and Scritches leave Sydney behind, bound for the 800-acre property on the edge of the wheat fields of South Australia.

However, this is no simple inheritance: Marian seeks to control her legacy from beyond the grave by setting tasks that Roni must complete before she can claim the property and a life that could change her future. With everything at stake, Roni must learn to trust in the truth of Marian’s most important lesson: everyone deserves love.

Recently I added another app my local library uses for eBooks and noticed that this one is a bit different to the other. The other one I use, books are checked out by someone like a regular print book and you have to wait for them to be ‘returned’ so you can borrow them. This app however, has books that are always available, and you can check them out any time. This book was one of them – it’s a recent release that I’ve seen a couple of reviews for and it felt like something that I would enjoy.

Roni lives in Sydney – she was raised in a string of foster homes and for the last 10 years has worked in a cafe near Circular Quay. She makes just enough to get by, barely. But her rent will soon be increasing and she knows that she won’t be able to afford the new amount, she’ll need to find somewhere else to live. Sydney is an expensive city and it’ll be difficult. A strange phone call leads to a meeting with a lawyer and Roni learns that an aunt has left her a house. Well, property really, in South Australia, as well as the means to visit it. In order to inherit, Roni must undertake a series of tasks set by her late aunt, the first of which is visiting the family homestead. Her aunt has left her letters to read at various points, including with other people, whom she has tasked to help integrate Roni into the community. Roni goes to see the property with firm intentions of doing whatever she has to do to inherit it clear, and then selling it and going back to Sydney. After all, she was raised entirely in the city, she doesn’t know anything about farming or country life. But as she and her cat Scritches settle in, the place – and some of its residents – begin to get under her skin.

I really enjoyed this book – loved it actually. I thought that Lèonie Kelsall did an amazing job at showcasing what Roni’s life in foster care must’ve been like, but without going into extensive detail about it. It’s clear that she carries some deep, deep scars from that time, specifically related to an event as well as just the general instability of it. Roni has also lived a mostly solitary life since aging out of care – she seems to have no real friends, although a decent working relationship with her boss. She works long hours and then hurries home, often in the dark, to her apartment where she also helps elderly occupants occasionally get their medications or drops in groceries to them. She’s about to face a significantly troubling situation when she receives the news that she has what could be a substantial inheritance. All Roni seems to really have in her life is her cat Scritches, whom she rescued from behind a dumpster years ago after boys were coaxing him out and then pelting him with rocks. The bond between Scritches and Roni is seriously adorable – he has huge swathes of personality and is a massive part of the story. And there is a part in this book that made me cry and it was all because of Scritches.

Roni is a fish out of water on the farm and resentful of the ‘challenges’ her aunt has left her – things like make a loaf of bread from a sourdough starter, feed the poultry and care for them, integrate herself into the local community. Despite working in a cafe, Roni doesn’t seem to have ever really cooked herself meals and is clear about her distrust of vegetables. She makes a lot of mistakes, ones that you would expect people raised in the city to make and her lack of self confidence is quite an issue as well. Roni has had very little in the way of genuine care and affection in her life, which makes her vulnerable and also shapes her personality. She’s determined….but also tentative, which is an interesting combination. I enjoyed the way she slowly evolved, the longer she spent time at the farm. When she arrives she’s paranoid – locks herself in when the sun goes down, completely thrown by the silence of the country, freaked out by the lack of traffic noise etc. She carries with her a lot of scars from her city life and it takes her a while to relax, to settle into rural life, to even begin to embrace it. I understood her finding some of the challenges annoying – it felt like a lot of hoops to jump through by someone who had known of her existence and yet had done little to make her life more comfortable and seemingly nothing to be involved in her upbringing and life. It takes time for things to be explained and there were times when I thought Roni’s vulnerability was a bit frustrating, because it’s obvious to me what is happening, that she’s in danger of being exploited. But for someone who had grown up like Roni did, it was completely understandable that she’d want to find a happy ending, a reason for her being in care, for being abandoned. It’s idealistic and she has lessons to learn about how she can go about making her life fulfilling and rich herself, rather than relying on a relationship with one person to do that.

There’s a love interest in this book as well for Roni and I thought that played out perfectly. Roni requires a deep understanding and Matt gets that, without needing to be told. He himself has his vulnerabilities as well and they compliment each other very well, especially with the knowledge and help he is willing to impart to her. I loved them together.

9/10

Book #141 of 2020

The Farm At Peppertree Crossing is book #46 of The Australian Women Writers Challenge for 2020

 


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