By Tim Slee
Imprint: HarperCollins – AU
Author Tim Slee was the winner of the inaugural Banjo book prize, with his novel Taking Tom Murray Home. The Banjo prize, given by HarperCollins, is a quest to find Australia’s next great story teller and having read Taking Tom Murray Home I have to agree that Tim Slee is a great story teller.
The story is of a country farming family and the aftermath of the death of the husband/father. Tom Murray was a dairy farmer, struggling like many farmers, and he decides that rather than let the bank have his farm he’ll sell off the stock and burn the house down. Unfortunately it goes tragically wrong and he dies in the fire. His widow Dawn feels that she doesn’t want his death to be in vain and decides to hold a funeral procession, taking him home to Melbourne where he was born.
But the procession uses a horse and cart so it takes several days to take Tom Murray home from Yardley in country Victoria to Melbourne (covering some 350 kilometres). Just before the procession leaves the local bank is burned to the ground and as they approach Melbourne there are more fires which causes all sorts of issues for the procession including civil unrest as the police try to track down the arsonist.
The story is told through the eyes of one of Tom’s children, thirteen year old Jack. Jack and his twin sister Jenny both suffer from a genetic disorder which mean they can’t feel pain or cry. Dawn, Tom’s wife and the twin’s mother, is a determined woman and its clear as the story goes on she is becoming her own self as she becomes stronger and deals with all the issues that she has to face because of the situation her late husband has left behind and her own decision to bring his death and the issues of farmers to the attention of the Australian public with the help of the press.
This story made me smile at times and it also made me cry especially for Jack and Jenny and the difficulties they will have in life because of their condition and the horror of losing their father. It’s a story of how we all deal differently with grief, how community rallies round when people go through difficult times and how often it’s those you didn’t expect to support you who turn out to be the ones you can rely on.
So Taking Tom Murray Home is the story of a unique road trip, we Australians love our road trips so many will identify with this aspect of the story and as we love the underdog we’ll want Dawn and the twins to have a happy ending and for Tom to rest in peace.
Thanks to the Beauty and Lace Book Club and HarperCollins for the opportunity to read this novel. I’m glad to hear that Tim Slee has a few more manuscripts on the go and look forward to reading them when they are published.
A selection of our Beauty and Lace Members have been reading Taking Tom Murray Home by Tim Slee. You can read their reviews in the comments section below, and if you have read the book we would love to hear what you thought!
I was brought up on the classics in the UK but now I’m a Pozzie (British by Birth, Australian by choice) I’m enjoying discovering Australian works, we have some terrific storytellers. I’ve been a member of a local book club for a decade or so and that has also widened my choice of reading. I agree wholeheartedly with Stephen King: “Books are a uniquely portable magic”