Releasing a new book and getting ready to launch it is a busy time in any writer’s life. So instead of my usual blog, I’m posting a review from the online magazine Beauty and Lace. Thank you Michelle for reading Journey’s End as part of the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge, and for the five stars! (Winners of the prize draw can be found at the end of the post)
Jennifer Scoullar goes from strength to strength and I finished Journey’s End the way I started it, on the brink of tears, though very different types of tears.
Kim Sullivan and her husband Connor have big dreams of their life together and many of them centre on the rundown property Connor inherited, Journey’s End, and finally the time has come to start working on all of their plans. In a few short days Connor will be back from war-torn Afghanistan and they can start making their dreams for Journey’s End realities.
Until the knock on the door that changes everything, the knock on the door every wife and mother fears; the knock that says Connor isn’t coming home.
Two years later Kim decides it is time to put Journey’s End on the market, all of the dreams she had for the property were dreams she shared with Connor and without him it just seems way too hard.
Life has moved on but the family is struggling and the passing of their dog Scout is what broke me in the opening pages; I think because I can relate as I have an old dog of my own who is starting to slow down and I can’t bear to think of life without him. They decide to take a trip to Journey’s End to scatter Scouts ashes and look at what needs to be done to ready the place for sale. My biggest issue here was that I couldn’t understand scattering ashes in a place you’re about to sell, but that’s just me and I am already torn with how to make the decisions when the time comes.
The first trip to Journey’s End is heartbreaking for Kim, the family have moved out of the family home so they don’t have the constant reminders at every turn; once they get to Journey’s End that’s exactly what they find. It’s like having to let go all over again. But there is something comforting about the place and before long Kim decides to take 12 months off work and go to Journey’s End to get the place well and truly ready for sale and give the children a change of scenery.
As is always the case in Scoullar novels the surroundings, and the animals, play as large a role in the story as the people.
Kim Sullivan and her children need to heal, they need to learn to live again and they need to learn to live with their grief, rather than just keep on with the one foot in front of the other existence.
Journey’s End also needs to heal, it’s been left neglected for too long and there is much work to be done to bring it back to a thriving property. The property has a conservation covenant on it, meaning that it can’t be logged, and it will affect the type of buyer that’s attracted. The neglect of the property has attracted an endless stream of wild animals, the ones that are actually more looked upon as pests in farming areas. Lots of wild rabbits, foxes, kangaroos, wallabies, goats and they even see a couple of brumbies on their first visit.
Much of the story centres on the wildlife work done by Kim’s neighbour Mel, and in turn the Sullivans as they take on the overflow and always have a menagerie of orphaned animals around, and the regeneration of Journey’s End. The replanting, the controversial pest eradication program and the slow fixing up of the house.
Alongside the story of the property is the reawakening of Kim, the blossoming of Abbey and the calming of Jake. The change of scenery is good for the family; they meet new people and have a totally different set of experiences in the small town of Tingo than they would in Sydney.
The story isn’t all about the Sullivans, there is also the mysterious Taj; a relative newcomer to Tingo who generally keeps to himself but is a great handyman around town.
The story is narrated in the third person but alternates, not evenly or regularly, between Taj and Kim.
Taj has a haunted past and his grief and loss is evident in his eyes, though no-one in town really knows his story. Jake takes an immediate dislike to him and Abbey is the complete opposite being drawn to him. Taj is not only a talented handyman but also has a way with animals. He works on the house and yards for Kim to help ready it for sale, and they begin to also work together on Kim’s plans for the property and rewilding the bushland.
Ben is the real estate agent looking after the sale of Journey’s End and he forms a friendship with Kim. He is charming and charismatic, perhaps a little too much, and Jake takes an immediate shine to him, though Abbey never warms to him. The reactions of the kids illustrate the sharp contrast between the two men in the story.
The characters are beautifully drawn, they are realistic and believable; their pain is palpable and their reawakening is a joy to watch. Scoullar has done another stellar job of creating fantastic characters that complement one another and make you feel… even if that feeling is one of anger.
The small town of Tingo and its characters are an interesting mix and help complete the picture when it comes to the more controversial plans Kim puts into place on her property.
Journey’s End has a little bit of everything, it’s a little bit suspense, a little bit romance, a lot of regeneration and a great deal of environmental awareness. Love, learning to laugh again, friendship, family and living with loss are all major players in this engaging new Scoullar novel.
Every Jennifer Scoullar novel I have read helps bring awareness to an environmental issue and I have loved every one of them, and now I need to go and track down the one or two that I have missed along the way.
Journey’s End is book #30 for the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge 2016