This is the debut novel of local author Jane Harper. It very deservingly was awarded The Indie Book of the Year in 2017. A “who dun it” set in country Victoria in a time of extreme drought. Beautifully written, maintaining a constant momentum that makes it very easy to read, with interesting twists and turns in the story to keep you hooked until the final page.
There are many themes in this story but the power of friendships from childhood is a thread running throughout the novel that rings true for me. The main character is Aaron Falk. Like all the personalities, he appears as an outsider even in his home town, quirky and awkward. But as the novel progresses you come to know him and appreciate him for who is really is on the inside. He values friendship, is uncomfortable around conflict, but is determined to do what he can to understand what happened to his once close friends. With the whole town against him, good and bad memories flooding back, he confronts the past and present demons and shows his strength of character.
The current issues run side by side with tragedy in the past. The flash backs, seamlessly woven into the story, provide greater understanding for the current issues between the various players. The unresolved previous wrongs haunt the story, and reinforce the narrow-mindedness of small town living, and how quickly assumptions can be made and guilt ascribed with insufficient justification. The transmission of wrongs from the past transferred to the current generation, was horrifyingly real and taken for granted as the way the world works.
The story covers a vast range of issues including family violence, the impacts of alcohol abuse and gambling, the difficulties of farm life particularly in times of prolonged drought, the generation gap, and the miriad different types of love-between friends, lovers, parents and children, as well as within families and close knit communities.
I found “The Dry” to be a very thought provoking and satisfying tale. Spending time myself in a country town, I found it a very believable rendition of the tensions and undercurrents in a farming community. The backdrop of the unrelenting heat, the rabbit plague, the insecurity of farming life, the appreciation for the land, the reliance on the community-were all treated with a respect and sensitivity that made this story come alive for me. I can highly recommend this novel. Take this journey with Falk as he confronts past secrets, stands up for the soul mates from his teenage years, challenges the bullies, grudges and prejudices, and atones for running away rather than facing tragedy. You will not regret it!!