From Publishers Weekly
Pierce uses a family's intriguing history to produce a thoughtful, evocative portrait of Australia in this compelling first novel consisting of a collection of semi-autobiographical interlocking short stories. The narrator is a young American named Sam Browne, who returns to Australia, his mother's homeland, where he spent a year of his youth. His mysterious grandmother died alone in the Blue Mountains; years later, Sam's mother is to repeat her own mother's history. Sam pays tribute to both: "women who... have hearts too tender to absorb the loss inevitable in this life." Ranging back and forth in time, the stories begin with "Coachman's Paddock," set in 1979, which flashes back to Sam's first crush, in seventh grade, on his beautiful classmate, Kelly Richardson. Later on, Kelly and Sam spend a summer courting while Sam's mother dates Kelly's father. "Smoke" is a touching tale about Sam's failing marriage to Taylor, a driven, yuppie accountant, while "The Letter" brings Sam's grandmother back into the picture when he and Taylor discover one of her old manuscript collections of essays. In the graceful final story, Sam's girlfriend, Jolene, helps Sam reconcile himself with his past when she shares with him some strange dreams she has about his grandmother. Sam finally understands his relationship to his grandmother-"we were both lost and unsure of ourselves; we were looking for love to save us..."-and is able to reverse the family pattern. Pierce's ability to offer a fresh, compelling take on Australia is impressive and noteworthy. Written in clean, understated prose, his debut has plenty of depth and staying power.
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When Sam Browne arrived in Australia to spend a year with his newly divorced mother, he was startled by the vision of her familiar figure against the foreign landscape. She was not the woman who had mothered him in California, but someone born anew, with feet firmly rooted in the soil of her birthplace. Australia had already claimed the life of Sam's grandmother, a tour guide who disappeared into the outback, leaving behind a legacy of detailed journals for the world to behold. Now his mother was to follow in his grandmother's footsteps, meticulously organizing and reading the onion-skin journals in the hope of understanding the future through the past. After reaching adulthood in the U.S., Sam soon finds that the same matriarchal cord stretches through his being, and he feels himself drawn toward the Australian countryside. With the weathered journals in hand, he begins the journey back to Australia where the dreams of the women in his family lay buried. Beautiful in its sentimental simplicity. Elsa GaztambideCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved