The Mother Fault (Kate Mildenhall, S&S)
This gripping and thoughtful novel offers a spine-tingling vision of a future Australia—eerie in its potential realism—in which citizens’ movements are tracked and climate change has decimated the country, flooding coastlines and bringing extreme heat. The country is governed by a Big Brother-style third party that offered an alternative to the existing political stalemate. When geologist and suburban mother Mim discovers her husband has suspiciously disappeared from his FIFO job at a Chinese–Australian mine in Indonesia, it is her desperate fight to find him and protect her children that fuels the novel’s pace. Like the rock that Mim specialises in, this book has many different layers. It is crammed with ideas—from postnatal depression to the gender divide, to first love, betrayal, parenting, sailing, geopolitics, nuclear waste, ice addiction and more. Peppered with gems of insight, the novel deftly weaves memory with the present as the characters’ failings add emotional resonance. The carefully crafted phrasing, such as evocative descriptions of the endless sky under sail, sometimes borders on sublime. With its superb storytelling and capacity to spark reflection on the way we live, this timely, riveting, warning bell of a book can be confidently recommended to a wide readership. The Mother Fault is a fine second novel from the author of Skylarking.
Joanne Shiells is a teacher, editor and former bookseller.