Josh Pomare, a Rotura born now Melbourne based writer, supported our YPRL 2019 BookLovers Festival with a great session at our Rosanna Branch Library discussing his first book Call Me Evie, a psychological thriller with a twist that received great acclaim when first published. In fact it won the 2019 Ngaio Marsh Award for Best First Novel. He has also produced a podcast for writers since 2015 called On Writing which has over 60 episodes and can be accessed from Apple Podcasts. In The Clearing is his second novel and for me brought back memories of the cult operating in Eildon in the 60s and 70s called The Family. I have also watched the 3 part investigative series The Cult of the Family on ABC television so was ready to fall into Pomare’s story from the first with full credibility.
The story unfolds in two threads. One is the story of Amy, a teenager and a member of a cult based in the Clearing, in Victorian bushland. Amy is sure of her place in the community until a new young girl is snatched from the wider world and is adopted into the cult community. But this girl does not want to be there, and she definitely does not want to stay. Seeing this determination, Amy starts to wonder about everything she has been told and come to believe. The second story is of Freya, an assumed name, of someone who is learning how it is to be normal as she battles a trauma in her past. She has a young son Billy and her dog and, we as readers, are as convinced as Freya of the need to be always looking for that threat. But will Freya’s hyper awareness, her panic buttons, the bunker and her dogs really help her to keep herself and her son safe from a threat that is slowly revealed throughout the book? Pomare manages to embue suspense into both Amy’s and Freya’s story as you know that something bad this way comes for both of them!!! I am not going to give away any spoilers so will say nothing more about the storyline but really, everyone should read it. Right up to the final climatic twist which will totally throw you. Questions throughout abound. How do we protect our families, and what makes a family? This takes us down many a rabbit hole, where we are constantly second guessing ourselves and being surprised by the slow reveals throughout. It is smartly plotted, well written with believable characters and a total page turner. Perfect for a weekend reading binge. Four stars from me.
Jane Cowell, CEO Yarra Plenty Regional Library