“Jaxie dreads going home. His mum’s dead. The old man bashes him without mercy, and he wishes he was an orphan. But no one’s ever told Jaxie Clackton to be careful what he wishes for.
In one terrible moment his life is stripped to little more than what he can carry and how he can keep himself alive. There’s just one person left in the world who understands him and what he still dares to hope for. But to reach her he’ll have to cross the vast saltlands on a trek that only a dreamer or a fugitive would attempt.”
I was privileged enough to hear Tim Winton talk about this novel and what he calls, ‘toxic masculinity’ in Sydney. Afterwards I thought there wouldn’t be much left to get out of reading the novel, but as I rounded chapter 3 I realised I was dead set wrong. The protagonist is rough, abrasive and, if not endearing, at least engrossing and he leads us on a cracking journey of survival that snaps like a whip the closer you get to the end. As with most of Winton’s writing the landscape is it’s own character and the austere backdrop for Jaxie’s plight reflects the unforgiving and shocking nature of his story. It made me both incredibly uncomfortable and supremely intrigued. It’s about manhood and masculinity for sure, but also about growing up, fear and bravery, solitude and unexpected friendship. Warning: lots of language and some violence.