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With masterful nuance and vividly drawn characters, Sonya Hartnett’s novel visits a suburban neighborhood where psychological menace lurks below the surface.
Colt Jenson and his younger brother, Bastian, have moved to a new, working-class suburb. The Jensons are different. Their father, Rex, showers them with gifts — toys, bikes, all that glitters most — and makes them the envy of the neighborhood. To the local kids, the Jensons are a family out of a movie, and Rex a hero — successful, attentive, attractive, always there to lend a hand. But to Colt he's an impossible figure: unbearable, suffocating. Has Colt got Rex wrong, or has he seen something in his father that will destroy their fragile new lives? This brilliant and unflinching new novel reveals internationally acclaimed author Sonya Hartnett at her most intriguing and psychologically complex.
Bas.” The man casts a smile to his smaller son. “Here’s a friend already. Bastian is almost ten too, Syd. He was worried about coming to a new neighbourhood, weren’t you, Bas? You thought you wouldn’t make any friends.” “I wasn’t, Dad!” “Well, Bas, you were, if you remember. You felt unsure; but that’s all right. That’s only to be expected. And see — you’ve made a pal already.” Syd and Bastian look at each other, and it’s like a Jack Russell being introduced to a budgerigar: in theory they
stuff they have.” “I don’t know why we came here,” says Colt. “I don’t know what difference it will make.” He says it in a thoughtful voice, and the boys glance at each other: it is clear that Colt Jenson is of a breed other than theirs, which isn’t necessarily a good thing. “Have you joined an athletics club yet?” Declan asks. “No. I’m not going to.” “Why not? You shouldn’t give up.” Colt shrugs. “It’s only running.” “But you’ve won all those trophies. You must be good at it.” “I reckon
they’re silly for imagining he’d even know how to hurt them. “That’s a foolish thing to say,” he tells her. “You know it is, so I won’t indulge it. None of us are responsible for the circumstances of our birth.” She stares into her cup, disgraced, but mulishly determined. Breathing deeply, she looks up to meet his eye. “Even if it’s foolish, it’s still a fact. They wouldn’t have got married if not for me. And that makes me . . . guilty.” Colt has rested his forehead on his folded arms. His hair
sight. “Shit,” says Garrick. Declan looks away from the place where the cap disappeared; Syd can see him struggling to work out what’s going on. Garrick is not typically a complex man. “Could have given it to me,” Declan says carefully. Garrick sneers. “What would you do with a portable radio? Listen to cricket in the shed like some codger?” “Maybe.” Declan doesn’t point out that Garrick himself likes cricket. “I would have tied it to the handlebars.” Garrick thinks about this — the notion of
father will not, and Bastian should not have to. If this is how it must be, it is much better than nothing. He’s ready to do what he can. “It’s OK,” he says. “Do it. You should. I want you to.” Garrick regards him suspiciously, unaccustomed to compliant victims. “I will,” he says. “When I’m ready. Don’t tell me what to do.” He shuffles back and rolls his shoulders, wipes his nose on a wrist. He hefts his hands, bloats his cheeks and blows out air. He peers into the distance, looks behind to see