The Middle of Nowhere

Written by Geraldine McCaughrean
Review by Valerie Loh

Comity Pinny’s mother dies of a snake bite in the remote Australian outback where her father runs the telegraph station in Kinkindele. It is the late 19th century, and Herbert Pinny’s grief locks him into a solitary existence where he focuses on his duty, leaving poor Comity to develop a strong bond of friendship with an Aboriginal yard boy, called Fred. A new normality is slowly established as they both seek to make sense of the world and events around them until another assistant, a cruel man, arrives at the station. Comity is soon swept along by more drama that builds throughout to the novel’s conclusion.

I found that I was drawn into this book from the opening lines. The style of writing is accessible, inspiring, very visual and fascinating. The story combines the myths and beliefs of different cultures in a way that helps the protagonist and her friend deal with the reality of life and death. They explain and understand events with the wisdom that they have both learnt through ‘awake-dreaming’.

=This novel is not a cosy story. It deals with hard issues such as loss, grief, prejudice, hatred and abuse, to name but a few. However, it is optimistic in the way the central characters learn to cope and overcome as they discover the strength of friendship.

I do not want to disclose any plot spoilers because the book should be read and enjoyed, trusting that a world, which is far removed in place and time from many of us, will be described throughout in a way that brings vivid, lingering images to mind. The end does not disappoint. I would recommend this book for competent readers of 10+.