Rural Dreams (Margaret Hickey, MidnightSun)
Rural Dreams, like its name implies, is a short story collection deeply rooted in country Australia. Reading it you can practically smell the dry grass, eucalyptus and stale pub carpet. It’s also about loss, leaving and returning, understanding the ‘other’, and the things you cling to but can never get back. Rural Dreams relays tales of people of all ages: some who’ve escaped the beach or bush for the big smoke, some who’ve returned to their roots, others who never left and are befuddled by black-clad Melburnians. There are stories of sadness and fear, but also of beauty and simplicity, and more than a few Kath & Kim–style laugh-out-loud moments. (‘I had a friend down Corio way, called her twin boys Benson and Hedges. Nice names you know? Original.’) It’s a cliché to say that there’s something in for everyone in this book but there just is, with stories encompassing subjects ranging from adolescence, parenting and relationships to farms, crocodile swamps and footy—lots of footy. For anyone who’s ever lived in the country—or even dreamed of it—the stories in Rural Dreams are familiar, easy reading.
Hannah Cartmel is an editor, former bookseller and co-founder of The Rag & Bone Man Press Inc.