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2017 - Shortlisted
The country around Charters Towers has found its voice, as powerfully evocative as Carson McCullers’ or Cormac McCarthy’s American south. P. J. Parker’s richly characterised family memoir is an unexpected delight, given that its inspiration was the issue of euthanasia. If Tolstoy was right that happy families are all alike and each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way, then Parker’s family falls somewhere in between — eccentrically happy and living exuberantly, with a strand of sadness that plays out quite devastatingly, for all its gentleness. Parker presents her characters — especially those powerful matriarchs, her mother and grandmother — through their own words, getting so far into (or under) their skin that we don’t doubt we’ve heard them speak. Remembered conversations, full of humour and linguistic idiosyncrasies, play at the boundaries of what a memoir can do. Parker displays a wonderful ear for laconic bush vernacular, authentic and lyrical at the same time. When we eavesdrop on a Christmas dinner, for example, we can hear all families in this quite singular one.