EXCERPT: Bearing down on seventy, my plans had never included living like I was, alone, in the shadow of my eldest daughter and estranged from the people and places that had come to mean the most to me.
Getting old had always conjured up images of Doug and I taking in the sunrises and sunsets at the farm together, hopefully content, with our children and grandchildren never far away.
How had I made such a muddle of being a wife, a mother, and then a grandmother? I’d had such ambition to be the best.
ABOUT THIS BOOK: ‘Functionally dysfunctional.’ That’s how financial analyst Grace Fairley describes her family in the small South Australian farming community of Miners Ridge – a family fractured by tragedy and kept that way by anger, resentment and petty jealousies. As the eldest sibling, Grace tries to keep the family in touch, but now she’s accepted a promotion to the London office. Time-zones and an enormous workload mean she’s forced to take a step back, although she finds time to stay in contact with Miners Ridge landscape gardener Aaron Halliday.
Sarah Fairley, Grace’s mother, fled Miners Ridge and her embittered husband eight years ago. Now, in the absence of Grace, she finds herself pulled back to the small town where her estranged children and grandchildren live. Drawn into the local community, and trying to rebuild family relationships, she uncovers a long-kept secret that could change her world …
Can Grace, Sarah and their family find a way to heal? Who will have the courage to make the first move?
MY THOUGHTS: I loved this gentle story of a family that has slowly fallen and drifted apart. Meredith Appleyard has written an honest portrait of life on Australian land. Aussie farmers battle the elements like nowhere else I can think of. They are constantly in drought. Or being ravaged by fire. Or flooded. And still the farmers battle on. They have a fierce pride in their land and what they do. A pride and stubbornness that can get in the way of their own lives and those of their families.
When Grace Went Away is told through the voices of Sarah and Grace, her daughter. Sarah was once married to Doug, a farmer on the outskirts of Miners Ridge, South Australia. When their youngest son, Luke, died it tore their marriage and their family apart. Originally a city girl, Sarah fled back to Adelaide and her mother. Now sixty eight and an orphan, estranged from her only sibling, having survived cancer, and no longer content to be reliant on her eldest daughter Grace who has moved to London, she decides to move back to Miners Ridge to try and mend some bridges with her remaining two children. But things don’t go quite to plan.
Meanwhile in London, settling into her dream job Grace is surprised by the presence of an old lover and finds that even after all the years she has been away, and although she has always pretended otherwise, deep down, she still thinks of Miners Ridge as home.
The whole time I was reading When Grace Went Away, it was playing like a movie in my mind. Although I have never been to the Adelaide region, Applyard’s descriptions of the countryside and the people had me feeling homesick. Life in small Australian towns is like nowhere else. The fly-in, fly-out culture, women alone coping with their families for weeks at a time, the relentless dust, the culture of holding on to your land no matter what. All this is realistically portrayed by Appleyard, and woven into a story laden with family dysfunction, grief, loss, love, friendship and resentment.
A moving story, and a satisfying read.
THE AUTHOR: Meredith Appleyard lives in the Clare Valley wine-growing region of South Australia, two hours north of Adelaide. As a registered nurse and midwife, she has worked in a wide range of country health practice settings, including the Royal Flying Doctor Service. She has done agency nursing in London and volunteer work in Vietnam. After her first manuscript was rejected, she joined a writers’ group, attended workshops and successfully completed an Advanced Diploma of Arts in Professional Writing with the Adelaide College of the Arts. And she kept working. When she isn’t writing, Meredith is reading, helping organise the annual Clare Writers’ Festival, or at home with her husband and her border collie, Daisy.
DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Harlequin Australia via NetGalley for providing a digital ARC of When Grace Went Away by Meredith Appleyard for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.
For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com
This review and others are also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and Goodreads.com