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Sheerwater (Leah Swann, HarperCollins)

Sheerwater begins when a plane falls out of the sky. The accident—a light aircraft crash-landing in a field off the Great Ocean Road—is witnessed by Ava, a young woman on a white-knuckle drive to the town of Sheerwater to begin a new life with her two young sons, Max and Teddy. But the accident destroys Ava’s carefully laid plans in the cruellest of ways: she leaves Max and Teddy in the car when she rushes to help the downed plane’s passengers, and when she comes back, her boys are gone. This novel explores questions of motherhood, loss and domestic abuse. The chapters shift between different characters’ perspectives, unpeeling the layers of Ava’s past and slowly revealing Max and Teddy’s fate. Leah Swann takes a familiar ‘every parent’s worst nightmare’ trope and invigorates it with visceral prose and a tense narrative arc that unfolds over just three days, speeding towards a dramatic conclusion. As the story progresses, some of its central players seem less complex and engaging than others—either too villainous or too innocent—but Sheerwater is nonetheless a propulsive read with an acute emotional core. It’s likely to hold appeal for readers of both literary and crime fiction, and fans of writers such as Emily Maguire, Emma Viskic and Sofie Laguna.

Carody Culver is a freelance writer, assistant editor at Griffith Review and a contributing editor at Peppermint magazine


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