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Review: A Home Like Ours by Fiona Lowe

A Home Like Ours 
Fiona Lowe
Harlequin AUS
2021, 542p
Copy courtesy of the publisher/DMCPR Media

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

As a small town turns on itself, three women discover true friends aren’t always the ones you think you know… A compulsive page-turner from bestselling Australian author Fiona Lowe.

Tara Hooper is at breaking point. With two young children, a business in a town struggling under an unexpected crime wave, and her husband more interested in his cricket team than their marriage, life is a juggling act. Then, when new neighbours arrive and they are exactly the sort of people the town doesn’t want or need, things get worse.

Life has taught Helen Demetriou two things: being homeless is terrifying and survival means keeping your cards close to your chest. Having clawed back some stability through her involvement in the community garden, she dares to relax. But as she uncovers some shady goings-on in the council, that stability turns to quicksand.

For teenage mother Jade Innes, life can be lonely among the judgement of the town and the frequent absences of her boyfriend. A chance encounter draws her into the endangered community garden where she makes friends for the first time. Glimpsing a different way of life is enticing but its demands are terrifying. Does she even deserve to try?

Can these women with such differing loyalties unite to save the garden and ultimately stop the town from tearing itself apart?

I really enjoyed this book.

It’s taking a look at quite a lot of issues but somehow they all work together in the context of the story. It centres around three women at very different parts of their lives – Helen is older, she’s experienced homelessness and even now, has housing uncertainty. This is a real concern for many people who are approaching their ‘winding down’ years – the years where they should be thinking about a comfortable retirement are often spent frantically trying to shore up their future. Helen has a lot of pain in her past and she’s a prickly personality. Tara is in her 30s, married with two kids, she and her husband own a thriving business. She should feel the happiest she’s ever been. But Tara is feeling the disconnect from her husband but her feeling of what was wrong turns out to be very different from the actual problem. And then there’s Jade, still a teenager and a mother now. She spends most of her days waiting for her boyfriend Corey to return and help out. Corey continually tells her they’re going to be better parents to baby Milo than their parents ever were to them but basically, Corey talks a lot and is around none.

The women all live in the same small Victorian town but don’t really know each other until they become involved in the local community garden. Helen is the caretaker and has worked there a while, Jade is interested in exchanging some labour for organic veggies to feed Milo and Tara is happy to offer some sponsorship through their business, supporting the town. When Helen offers a plot to some refugee women, it stirs up a huge amount of controversy. There’s a small community of refugees in this town who are “different” to the locals and the young teens are the first place the local policeman’s eyes go whenever there’s an incident.

Tara and her husband Jon aren’t impressed when their new neighbours turn out to be from Sudan. Fiza and her three children (a teenager and younger twins around the same age as Jon and Tara’s kids) are polite and considerate neighbours, helpful in ways that their own friends are not and it forces them to look at their thinking and change their minds – however they’re still prone to prejudice and societal pressure, questioning whether or not Fiza’s son, who they gave a job to, is the one behind the break-ins at their hardware business.

I really enjoyed the friendship between Helen and Jade. Both of them are a bit abrasive – Helen has seen a lot, experienced a lot of grief and she holds herself away from people. Jade is young and from a pretty disadvantaged background and she’s doing it tough too on a parent’s pension with a boyfriend who spends most of his time away “working” but who doesn’t contribute. Helen and Jade clash often, both of them the sort that doesn’t back down but over time, they do develop a very sweet relationship where both of them fill a role for the other that perhaps they didn’t even know they wanted. I also loved the character of Bob, who bears the brunt of Helen’s brutal tongue quite often but always comes back for more, and his nephew Lachlan, who is very sweet.

I loved the idea of the community garden, a place where people of all different walks of life could have their own plots and not just exchange and share their bounty but also get to know each other, learn about each other’s lives. Many of the women that are refugees share food with Jade, bring her and Milo into their group and give her a sense of community, one that she probably didn’t feel from the ‘locals’. Fiza’s story is heartbreaking and her determination to keep on, her fierce loyalty to and belief in her son admirable. She is constantly putting up with her son being questioned by the police every time something happens, without evidence and he generally has an alibi. But it’s not enough. It’s never enough.

There’s definitely a lot happening in this book (I haven’t even touched on the happenings with the local council and Jon’s eventual problem in this review!) but it’s all woven together very well and I think all the bits and pieces help to establish the community as a whole. Very enjoyable.


Book #34 of 2021

A Home Like Ours is book #18 of The Australian Women Writers Challenge for 2021


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