Updated: Mar 21, 2019
Levi and Charlotte are not surprised when their mother returns from the dead a week after she has been cremated. The women of their family have been doing it for generations. Not all of them. It seems the ones who come back have a reason for doing so. Something left unfinished, a message to be delivered. All of them return supposedly back to whatever realm or plain they entered upon their first death, in an instant conflagration of flames once this unfinished task is completed. With both children grieving, Levi mistakes Charlottes’ grieving for fear. He thinks that Charlette is scared that she will return from the dead as well, so he decides to build her a coffin. All the McAllister women have been cremated, so Levi believes that if he buries Charlotte, he will stop her from coming back and assuage her fears. Charlette finds out about Levi building a coffin for her, and in all this confusion, thinks that Levi is going to bury her and flees. The narrative is full of great characters. The private investigator, refreshingly female, hired by Levi to track down Charlotte is an enjoyable character. So too is the coffin builder that Levi hires. The correspondence that flies back and forth between him and Levi is hilarious. The narrative however does not really concentrate on one character. It’s more of a grouping of many different stories that are loosely connected. There is something about this book, which just makes it a joy to read, and being such a short book, reread. Maybe it’s the magical realism that Arnott has poured into every part of the narrative. He has created a Tasmania in which the human inhabitants share their world with the gods. Animal Gods, such as the water rat who is searching for his beloved Cloud God. Nature Gods like the Cloud God and Fire God (the way Arnott deals with the creation of fire, and turning it into a sentient, conscious God was a highlight of the book for me). Being such a short book with so much going on there is a danger of the narrative just becoming cluttered and the plot a skein, impossible to untangle, but Arnott pulls it off brilliantly. This book is just so enjoyable to read, and I can see myself returning to it many times in the future. 4.5 Stars.
Biography from goodreads.
Robbie Arnott was born in Launceston in 1989. His writing has appeared in Island, the Lifted Brow, Kill Your Darlings and the 2017 anthology Seven Stories. He won the 2015 Tasmanian Young Writers’ Fellowship and the 2014 Scribe Nonfiction Prize for Young Writers. Robbie lives in Hobart and is an advertising copywriter.
There is a wonderful interview on youtube with Robbie talking about the book. It is lengthy, but worth it if you loved the book. Warning there are spoilers, read the book first. Here's the link - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pwS8NhkIn_w