Other People’s Houses (Kelli Hawkins, HarperCollins)
This suburban thriller, set on Sydney’s North Shore, explores what happens when unresolved grief turns into obsession. After experiencing a horrific tragedy, Kate develops some bad habits, including an alcohol addiction and a compulsion to visit open homes, seeking comfort in these family environments and taking a little souvenir each time. She stumbles along until she comes across one particular ‘dream’ home and embeds herself in the lives of the family that owns its—with grievous consequences. Our very fallible and often awkward heroine makes some questionable choices, but through her, author Kelli Hawkins arouses the reader’s empathy and reveals the awful reality of alcoholism. We learn how much Kate, often the object of pity, resents seeing this on people’s faces. At times sad and moving, the plot, which also deals with issues of domestic violence, miscarriage and dysfunctional relationships, takes a while to pick up the pace, but when it does, the twists come fast. This promising debut novel (Hawkins also has a children’s book due out later this year) would be a good recommendation for fans of thrillers—particularly those that are issues-based or have a local edge—and is a confirmed quick and entertaining holiday read.
Joanne Shiells is a Melbourne writer, editor and English teacher.