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Mireille Juchau’s The World Without Us is a powerful tale of loss, grief and quiet redemption. Set largely within a small farming community in northern New South Wales, the novel centres around the Müller family — Stefan, Evangeline and their daughters Tess and Meg — who are grieving over the death of the youngest child, Pip. Through lyric, unsentimental prose Juchau explores each family member’s approach to mourning and brilliantly evokes the atmospherics of grief.
The characters’ losses are reflected in the damage done to the natural environment. The Clean Energy company is buying up land; chemical waste from fracking has leached into the water; people and horses are sick, and the bees are disappearing. Juchau never lectures. She weaves questions of climate change and ethical land management into a broader narrative that asks how best we should live and love. Into this rich mix she throws mystery and secrets. When Tess encounters Matthew Brandt’s photographs, she wonders what one is supposed to think about ‘an artist making ruin into beauty’. In The World Without Us Juchau is just such an artist.