Leisa Yeats has always defined herself by the things that are important to her – a good family, a loving relationship and a meaningful job working with kids. Life is good. But within a span of a few weeks, all of that changes. She’s always known she was adopted, but newly revealed lies and secrets kept by her parents make her question everything she thought she knew about her beginnings. Her ten-year relationship with her partner, Nan, is unexpectedly on shaky ground when she discovers that Nan, too, has kept a secret from her all these years.
Suddenly, everything Leisa believed – about her life, about the people around her, about herself – everything is turned upside down, and nothing is as she thought it was. Pulling away to try and sort things out, Leisa reaches out to the wrong people and, in the process, nearly loses herself. Buffeted at every turn by storms that shake the very foundation of her world, Leisa must figure out whom and what she can hold fast to as the winds of change blow.
Caren J. Werlinger writes extremely good books. Refreshing, consuming and engaging, ‘Year of the Monsoon’ is an excellent exploration of how a small revelation can impact a long term partnership. Each of Ms Werlinger’s novels is completely different and ‘Monsoon’ brings a new style and a new, slightly edgier, tension. The theme, tone and tale are those of a consummate storyteller.
Leisa and Nan are a happy long term couple whose lives are settled into patterns they have chosen. Good meaningful jobs, a happy home-life, strong family and friends. Sudden bereavement knocks their world and triggers a series of revelations which challenge their partnership and each woman’s sense of self.
The concept of the monsoon, the sudden unexpected deluge that can sweep people away, recurs throughout. But it is the after effects which keep the protagonists rolling from punch to punch. One lie can have far reaching ripples. One of the strongest lessons of the story is how a lie of omission is just as damaging as any other deception.
A powerful supporting cast add to a well rounded and deep study of the interplay between an extended family, some close and familiar, some new and dangerous. The solid friendships and family ties form a network of support many of us will envy, while the new and the judgemental threaten and undermine. The characters are strong, deep and well developed. A mixture of likeable and not, good and bad, Ms Werlinger writes real people. As with each of her previous novels there is theme. This time she explores the feelings and interactions of adoptive parents and adopted children and the biological mothers who gave up their child. An interesting exploration of ‘family’ and how our relationship with who we are, where we have come from, even who we look like, can impact our image of self.
I found this an easier read that other books by Ms Werlinger, less upsetting and challenging. But that doesn’t take away from how good it is, rather I found it more enjoyable and more likely to re-read. She really is excellent at crafting a complex emotional story and drawing out the subtle interplays of emotions within and between women. One of the best reads of the year so far… highly recommended.
(publisher review copy received)
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