Review ‘Evermore’ by Joanna Baker Book Three

Book Three

“My memories get mixed up with dreams” says Chess Febey, and they are causing emotional turmoil which is affecting her everyday life. When Chess was five her mother, Lena Febey, died in unspoken circumstances and Chess is unsure whether or not she was there at the time. Was it a tragic accident? Could she have caused it? Was her father involved?  There’s nothing on the internet and nobody will talk to her about what happened. Least of all her ineffective father, an uncommunicative alcoholic who hides family items and mementoes from Chess’ childhood, including a hand-drawn map of her mother’s titled “Evermore”. Where is this place?

There are a lot of veiled warnings and secrecy, and Chess doesn’t know where to start or what to believe in her search for an honest answer. Until she finally gets a lead. With her best friend and long-suffering companion Matt Tingle they head to the pretty alpine town of Bright in the high country of north-east Victoria; a place so close yet strangely Chess has never visited.

“The road to Mount Beauty started out like all the other roads around Bright, in story-book countryside, with reedy dams, cows, pretty trees and fields of lush grass. But soon we were climbing. The road became steep and winding. On the right there was a wall of rock with ferns and moss and roots, and on the left there was the kind of steep drop that had you imagining what would happen if you went over the edge and wondering if any of the trees would stop you.”

Page 162 ‘Evermore’ by Joanna Baker

Highly focussed, Chess and Matt pick up likely threads and hope to decipher how, and possibly why, Chess’ mother died. She soon finds out that nobody in town will tell them any details of what happened. If they will talk at all. Perhaps her mother Lena, a renowned flirt, was murdered and Chess was implicated as a child? From blank faces to townspeople warning her off, one woman forcibly showed Chess that she wanted to be left alone.

Obscure clues from Chess’ nightmarish dreams grow stronger and float to the surface night after night. She writes them down in the morning and reads them back to Matt. He’s a good foil for her; solid, sensible, the one who picks up on nuances and other people’s behaviour whereas Chess ploughs straight ahead, oblivious to the consequences which give rise to some bad situations.

Their investigations come across May Tran of Out and About Adventure Holidays. May becomes a willing participant in their quest, cycling through scenic countryside, often on cold rainy days. I would have liked more Aussie phrasing but when it comes to May, Matt’s humour and inner monologues are great value.

Chess and Matt become domestic hands at Grindel’s budget tourist hostel which they use as a base during their research, helped by cook Calvin and friend Paz who offers dream interpretations. Personally I am not too sure about the psychology behind the dream clues but they certainly are frequent and disturbing.

Chess and Matt encounter further stubbornness from the local residents, documents are hidden or erased, any contact is terse – especially in the library. And who is following them in the old red Mercedes? One big clue does emerge, although it throws Chess into further torment as to where her mother had actually died. The explosive final chapters reveal all and I was shocked at the moral judgement of everyone Chess encountered in her frantic search for the truth.

I loved the rural landscapes because I have family who lived in the area and I know the small hamlets of Yackandandah and Porepunkah; Wandiligong gets a mention for their tiny library dated 1878 and the new Bright library which is at least 150 years old.

Suitable for YA and adult readers “Evermore” is the third book in the series (below) and I think each book could stand alone although I enjoyed the ongoing progression. Character development is strong and the pacing kept me hooked right to the end. Throughout the story are compelling themes of friendship, determination and the overpowering desire to find out the truth behind an emotional family secret.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward  

My thanks to author Joanna Baker for a copy of “Evermore”.

Website https://joannabakerauthor.com/

Bookstore https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/evermore-joanna-baker/1141941498

Tourism https://www.visitbright.com.au/

If you or anyone you know needs help: https://www.beyondblue.org.au/

Review ‘The Dreamers’ by Karen Thompson Walker

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The pretty embossed bookcover hides a dark and disturbing story and I would not recommend it to immature readers, or people I know with sleep disorders.

I think the apocalyptic nature of the book could have a tendency to induce fear and possibly depression in anyone sensitive to a crisis situation with unstoppable consequences.

If I was watching this as a disaster movie about a virus starting in a school dormitory, causing people to fall asleep and may never wake up, I bet most of the theatre-goers around me would be shallow breathing, wondering if it were true.

Lesser books have been known to cause restless sleep, or bad dreams.

Of course, the virulent virus comes from the fertile imagination of Karen Thompson Walker who said in a BWF 2019 panel discussion “Why we dream is unknown” although she puts forward some interesting theories in this story.

‘The Dreamers’ could just as easily die from any airborne disease and here lies the crux of the matter.

The author does an excellent job in researching and creating botched medical care, civil unrest, mass panic, and then bringing it right back down to the most helpless, two young girls and their kittens, alone in an old house.

In a clipped journalistic writing style, there are heroes, references to new life, new love and parental devotion striving against all odds yet feeling strangely hollow and disjointed.  For me, the ending is unresolved.

This type of plotting is not my preferred reading, however, I respect the level of apprehension Karen Thompson Walker has created even while I think ‘The Dreamers’ could unsettle vulnerable readers.  Or create mass panic similar to Corona Virus.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

AUTHOR PROFILE—Karen Thompson Walker was born and raised in San Diego, California, where her first book ‘The Age of Miracles’ is set.  She studied English and creative writing at UCLA, where she wrote for the UCLA Daily Bruin.  An assistant professor of creative writing at the University of Oregon, she lives in Portland with her husband, the novelist Casey Walker, and their two daughters.
http://karenthompsonwalker.com/