You Belong Here (Laurie Steed, Margaret River Press)
This debut novel from acclaimed short-story writer Laurie Steed explores the dissolution of a family that began as a teenage marriage. Set against the backdrop of a 1980s and 1990s suburban childhood, and told through the children’s perspectives, the novel explores how the fallout from the parents’ separation affects the family and how patterns of behaviour are passed down through generations. As the children mourn the absence of their father, their dominant sentiments are sadness and anger, and themes of loyalty and trust emerge. You Belong Here is scattered with abundant cultural references, which provide a genuine portrayal of the era. The soundtracks, the video games, the food and the retailers evoked help the reader to step back in time: Nine Inch Nails, Faith No More, P J Harvey, Just Hits ’85, Powerade, YoGo, ham steaks, Gameboys, Masters of the Universe, Street Fighter, Miami Vice—the list goes on. While the characters remain somewhat distant, there is much to admire in Steed’s plot manipulations, eloquent turns of phrase and original imagery: for example, a mother’s strange behaviour is likened to a ‘gallery of tilted paintings’ in need of a spirit level. This book should appeal to readers of family drama, and those with 1980s and 1990s nostalgia. Without doubt, Steed is a talent to watch.
Joanne Shiells is a freelance editor and writer, and a former editor of Books+Publishing