The blue eyes of the bogans widen in surprise. They don’t see too many black chick’s on Harley’s around here. Kerry has just ridden three hours from Brisbane across the border to the town of Patterson in Durrongo to pay her dying pop a final visit.
The Salter family have never forgiven Kerry for leaving to live with the white fella’s in the big city a year ago. Kerry’s mother livid that she has not bothered to contact them once since leaving. To her, no matter what happens, Kerry will always be the “Great Abandoner”, missing her Pop’s birthday the final nail hammered home. Mary, Kerry’s mother has always been the rock of the family, but the imminent death of Kerry’s Pop has brought Mary to the point of collapse. Kerry thinks she may be expected to be the new rock of the Salter family. A job she fears that she can not live up to or want. Her brother Ken is an alcohol fuelled volcano, that everybody tiptoes around, always one drink away from erupting. His Son Donny’s alienation from the real world, a symptom of his disgraceful, violent treatment. It only takes Kerry a few days for her to realise that a return to this family is a burden to great for her to bear. Early one morning she decides to make her getaway. However, somehow as she is making her getaway, she is caught red handed by her Pop. Kerry stops on her way out the door to give her Pop a kiss on the forehead to find that he has passed away, racing ticket still clutched in his hand.
Worlds away in Sydney, Martina, a realtor, has been offered, or ordered, by her boss, to travel across the border and work as assistant manager at the Patterson branch in Durrongo. She has been working hard to start her own agency and knows that refusal at this stage in her career is not an option. She grits her teeth knowing it is only eight or so weeks and she will be back in Sydney closer to her dream.
Ultimately this novel is about the Salter family. Warts and all. Lucashenko use the Salter family as an archetypal aboriginal family doing it tough in these small Queensland towns. Their struggles with income, alcohol, physical abuse. Lies and a horrible, shocking family secret that is revealed towards the end. Lucashenko does a wonderful job of hiding this secret from the reader and when it is revealed, it explodes like Chernobyl’s ill fated reactor. If you start this book, keep going because this climax is the highlight of the book.
The issue of land rights is broached because Kerry’s Pop was an Elder of the tribe and his wish and right was to have his ashes dispersed on a small island which is adjacent to land that the council is intending to sell and build a correctional facility on. However, this land is sacred to the aboriginals, with their ancestors buried there.
Lucashenko, shows the reader that it is not just alcohol, violence and physical abuse that are the problems, these result from the actual problem. That is the lack of tolerance of cultures and acceptance. We pride ourselves on being a multicultural society so we should start living up to what that really means. White colonization took place all over the globe, Horrible massacres took place, generations were stolen, terrible crimes committed against the true owners of this land. We need to recognise that this is the aboriginals land and start working together and reconcile. We can do the right thing, and enormous strides have been made already.
There are also elements of magical realism and aboriginal culture that add greatly to the narrative. I neglected to mention this in my goodreads review and having reflected more after reading the review I think I may have rated it a little low so I am going to give it 4 Stars.
Melissa Lucashenko is an Australian writer of European and Goorie heritage. She received an honours degree in public policy from Griffith University in 1990. In 1997, she published her first novel Steam Pigs. It won the Dobbie Literary Award for Australian women’s fiction and was shortlisted for both the New South Wales Premier’s Literary Award and the regional Commonwealth Writers’ Prize. Steam Pigs was followed by the Aurora Prize–winning Killing Darcy, a novel for teenagers, and Hard Yards, which was shortlisted for the 2001 Courier-Mail Book of the Year and the New South Wales Premier’s Literary Award. Too Flash, a teenage novel about class and friendship, was released in 2002
Here is a link to the Stella site and an interview with Lucashenko talking about Too much lip. - https://thestellaprize.com.au/2019/03/stella-interview-melissa-lucashenko-much-lip/
Also a link here to The Sydney Morning Herald interview. - https://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/books/melissa-lucashenko-too-much-lip-was-a-frightening-book-to-write-20180724-h1326h.html