Book Buzz
Image. Advertisement:
Book Buzz is a promotional newsletter supported by the publishers.


‘A constellation of love and pain.’
—Annabel Crabb

‘Wildly beautiful, bravely honest.’
—Nikki Gemmell




Jay’s life is devoted to the care of her twin teenage sons, who view the world as differently as it views them. Frank is sweet, overweight and bullied, while Teddy is whip-sharp, despite needing an iPad to speak. With an absent husband, and embroiled in an endless battle with social services, Jay comes to depend on Keep, her lifelong half-real friend. But in the corner of her eye lurks her mother, and a childhood Jay knows she can’t ever outrun.

Jay believes she is managing things quite well, with a half-grip on this half-life of hers. That is, until Teddy starts to get sick, refusing to eat, while doctors refuse to listen, confounding everything Jay thought she knew about what lies ahead.

The Keepers is an incredible and fiercely honest debut about the damage done by parents who can’t love, the failures of a community that only claims to care, and the resilience of those whose stories mostly go untold, that will appeal to readers who loved Sofie Laguna’s The Eye of the Sheep, All the Birds, Singing by Evie Wyld, and Max Porter’s Grief Is the Thing with Feathers.




Born in Brisbane, Al Campbell is a mother and full-time carer. Long ago she studied a bit, acted a bit, and pulled a lot of beers. Her first-ever publication was in Overland in 2020, followed by a story in Signs of Life – an anthologyThe Keepers all but begged her to write it, given it is about issues – and people – that matter to her more than anything.


I was in my thirties when my boys were born, both with autism, both with high and varied support needs, particularly my younger, non-verbal son. That’s when my writing career took off – though not as you’d expect. Endless letters and emails – epic in length and repeated ad nauseum – to support and funding bodies, early intervention programs and educational representatives, government members and bureaucratic agencies. My children weren’t merely square pegs in a world of round holes – they weren’t even pegs to start with. No space, anywhere, seemed designed to fit them. So often, our participation as a family in just about anything required a written preface to somebody.

At some point, a copy of Julia Cameron’s The Artists’ Way fell into my orbit, and I began to write the advised three pages each morning. Only, I rarely stopped at three. I don’t know why I kept writing; it’s not like I didn’t have more pressing things on my plate. Perhaps I recalled the words of a beloved primary school teacher, way back in the mists of time, who once read to the class a story I had written. ‘Alayne, you should be a writer one day.’ Perhaps because Nikki Gemmell wrote a 2016 column called ‘Never too late to start’ about writers I admired like Annie Proulx, Elizabeth Jolley, Anita Brookner and others, all of whom only began their careers in their 40s and 50s. More likely, though, I kept churning out those ‘morning pages’ because I was just so tired of penning those long, begging letters and emails, knowing their fate – a quiet pulping by the cogs of a nightmare bureaucracy. That morning writer was fed up pleading for common sense from a Kafkaesque ‘care system’ whose rules seemed only to deliver the vulnerable into greater risk and hardship.

And so, somehow, the morning pages became The Keepers – the story of Jay and her lifelong half-real friend Keep who steps out of a pile of books one day when Jay is a child and in serious trouble.

My novel takes an unflinching look at the consequences of parents who can’t love, and of communities and ‘systems’ that only claim to care. But The Keepers is also an unexpected story of love between a damaged woman and the two children she will do literally anything to protect. There are many people who love someone with a disability, and many more who have fought the serpentine ‘system’ with everything they have, and still lost. Those carers are mostly too exhausted to write their own worthy stories. With The Keepers I hope to lift their voices loud.




You can read an extract from The Keepers here.

Email UQP to be in the running for one of twenty advance reading copies of The Keepers.





Contact us


Kelsey Oldham

Digital editor
Brad Jefferies

Acting editor, Daily
Matthia Dempsey

Editorial assistant
Anthea Yang

Classifieds, jobs and notices

Display advertising

Select newsletters

Select which newsletters you’d like to receive here.
Unsubscribe from individual newsletters here.
Or unsubscribe from all newsletters here.

View articles

Purchase a subscription to Books+Publishing to view all articles on the website.

If you need help with your subscription, please email the Subscriptions team.