The Breaking (Irma Gold, MidnightSun)
When Hannah meets fellow Australian traveller Deven in the lobby of a hostel in Thailand, her trip quickly gains a sense of purpose. Hannah’s drawn to the fiery, charismatic Deven in ways she doesn’t quite understand, and she follows her new friend across the country to rescue elephants from the tourist trade. As Hannah and Deven’s feelings for one another grow stronger, they journey deeper into the dark heart of wildlife tourism, ultimately making a choice that will have shocking consequences. Writer and editor Irma Gold’s debut novel has a propulsive energy and a visceral sense of place that’s informed by Gold’s own experience of working with rescued elephants in Thailand. While it’s refreshing to read a novel that explores an intense and complicated bond between two women, Deven may be a difficult character for some readers to relate to—not everyone will find her as compelling as Hannah does. But The Breaking doesn’t shy away from the complexity of its themes, acknowledging the imperfection of love and the complicated ramifications of following your convictions all the way to the end. It’s an unusual book, tackling both the messiness of human desire and the flawed nature of our relationships with animals, and may appeal to readers who enjoy the work of writers like Laura Jean McKay, Jessie Tu and Laura McPhee-Browne.
Carody Culver is senior editor at Griffith Review and a freelance writer.