EXCERPT: Riverbend picnic ground greeted her in a spectacular sherbet dawn with myriad shades of pink, purple and peach splaying across the sky in long graceful strands. The Murray River, wide at this bend, glinted violet in the light and a lone pelican glided towards her. Cockatiels shrieked and wheeled above, bursting yet another myth that the country was a quiet and peaceful place.
The wide sandy beach with its tall over-hanging trees – perfect for swinging and bombing into deep water – provided Helen with the real gift. Its existence meant the shire had spent the big bucks installing a boat ramp, gas barbecues, an instant hot water tap, picnic tables and a playground. There was also a state-of-the-art amenities block complete with a toilet for people with a disability, a sink, baby-change area and, miracle of miracles, a shower.
Despite her exhaustion, Helen whooped with delight. She lathered up and washed her hair, herself and then her clothes. Afterwards she fired up a barbecue, cooked an egg in bread and ate it sitting in the folding camping chair she’d found on a roadside collection weeks before. Soaking up the view, she pretended she was living in one of the impressive riverside homes, enjoying her custom-built outdoor kitchen on her deck.
Daylight meant no one would ask her to move on; she had a few hours reprieve. A few hours to luxuriate in normalcy and ignore her homelessness. Then the sun would inevitably sink, giving carte blanche to the insidious march of inky darkness and all the dangers that lurked within.
ABOUT ‘A HOME LIKE OURS’: Tara Hooper is at breaking point. With two young children, a business in a town struggling under an unexpected crime wave, and her husband more interested in his cricket team than their marriage, life is a juggling act. Then, when new neighbours arrive and they are exactly the sort of people the town doesn’t want or need, things get worse.
Life has taught Helen Demetriou two things: being homeless is terrifying and survival means keeping your cards close to your chest. Having clawed back some stability through her involvement in the community garden, she dares to relax. But as she uncovers some shady goings-on in the council, that stability turns to quicksand.
For teenage mother Jade Innes, life can be lonely among the judgement of the town and the frequent absences of her boyfriend. A chance encounter draws her into the endangered community garden where she makes friends for the first time. Glimpsing a different way of life is enticing but its demands are terrifying. Does she even deserve to try?
Can such disparate women unite to save the garden and ultimately stop the town from tearing itself apart?
MY THOUGHTS: I really enjoyed the prologue, in which we meet the homeless Helen who is living in her car.
At 30% I was seriously considering abandoning this book. We have jumped forward in time several years and are introduced to Tara, Jade, and Bob and the various people in their circles. I wasn’t connecting with any of the characters and was bored by the repetition, Tara’s obsession with sex, and Jade’s adoration of her deadbeat boyfriend and father of her baby. And then there’s the machinations of the local council, vandalism, racism, prejudice, Tara’s mainly horrible ‘friends’, her obsession with her gym instructor, and her husband’s medical problem. Too much! It was like tipping several different salads into one bowl, mixing them up and then expecting people to eat them.
I finished the book mainly because of Helen. And Fiza. And Bob and his nephew Lachlan. In the end it was almost okay read, but only just. A Home Like Ours is a long book and frequently dragged. The author tries to address far too many issues at once and while we get a lot of information about some, others are virtually ignored after being introduced. And none of them were really done justice.
I would have loved this book to have focused on Helen’s story, which is where it started. Each of the other main characters and issues deserves their own book.
I finished still feeling mostly dissatisfied. There were questions I had that remained unanswered, and the ending felt glib and shallow. I am glad that others have found this an uplifting read. I didn’t.
Reading is a personal and subjective experience, and what appeals to one may not please another. So if you enjoyed the excerpt from A Home Like Ours, and the plot outline appeals, please do go ahead and read it. Many other people have read and enjoyed A Home Like Ours and rated it higher than I have. Please also check out their reviews.
THE AUTHOR: Fiona’s been the recipient of a RITA and a RuBY award. Families and communities intrigue her and she loves creating characters you could meet on the street and enjoys putting them in unique situations where morals and values can blur and she begs the reader to ask themselves, ‘What would you do?’
DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Harlequin Australia & MIRA for providing a digital ARC of A Home Like Ours by Fiona Lowe for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.
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