Author: Lia Weston
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Copy: Courtesy of the Publisher
You Wish is Lia Weston’s third novel, and the second that I have read. I know that Weston is an Adelaide author so I must say that I spent quite a bit of the early chapters trying to work out where this book is set, and it turns out that it’s Melbourne but it is written well enough that it could easily be any major Australian city.
I was actually torn deciding whether this is a contemporary fiction or more a speculative fiction story because there are elements which seem like they should be way far out… but they just aren’t, not anymore.
Thomas Lash has a rather unique career that is described as many things throughout the novel, all of them accurate but none of them quite right. He is an artist first and foremost but he has co-founded a company that uses a very different medium to harness his creativity. He is an image manipulator and master Photoshopper who has turned a couple of well received birthday photos into a career.
It started with adding a friend into an Oscar’s red carpet but in this day and age who is to say where it will end. Your face on stage with your favourite band at a stadium show is a little bit of harmless fun but what about when you are creating complete alternate lives for clients, where does the moral grey area get decidedly murky. The ramifications for a skill set like this are very much a butterfly effect and in the beginning they aren’t necessarily things you take into consideration.
A way with photoshop isn’t Tom’s only talent, he has an uncanny ability to read people and is often used as a party trick. He can read body language and tiny tells about a person, especially strangers, and translate them into knowledge about their lives – and their desires.
Weston’s storytelling style is light-hearted and humorous, told from Tom’s perspective in the first person with snippets of aside dialogue that bring us inside the story because it’s us he’s talking to, generally making an observation about something that’s just happened. It adds an element of light-hearted banter to a story that has a quirky vibe, until it starts to get a bit dark and murky.
You Wish is quirky, the characters are interesting and extremely diverse. They storytelling is engaging and the subject matter is fascinating, if a little – and then a lot – disturbing.
One thing Weston manages to convey beautifully through this story is the limitless scope for art mediums. Tom studied art and by all accounts was pretty accomplished when it came to portraits but they don’t really bring in the big bucks so he branched out. He is now creating unique photo albums of alternate realities for a wide range of clients. Now this is where it gets hotly contested because he is definitely still creating, if not in a traditional sense, but many of those around him don’t recognise what he does as art. The further we get into the story the more he discovers that people aren’t really comfortable with what he does. When he started it seemed like something that would fizzle out rather quick, but then it didn’t… it grew. They don’t realise that Tom is still doing more traditional art, and keeping it a secret from pretty much everyone.
Tom gets himself caught up in the ideal of being able to create the world you want and he starts to lose himself, his life starts imploding around him and then the first complaint comes in. Five years in and the co-founders are looking at ways to move the business forward, in ways that Tom is really not comfortable with.
I enjoyed this book immensely. It is topical, intuitive and insightful but it also has an amazing element of wit, to go with it’s disturbing dash of dark side. It is reminiscent of ‘with great power comes great responsibility’. Clients are trusting you with their very sensitive hopes and dreams, what happens if you don’t look after that data, what tsunami can you unleash on these people’s lives if their information gets leaked….
I sit here thinking back on the book and there are a couple of niggling questions that have me wondering where things fit and if they have a significance but if they did I definitely missed it.
You Wish leaves us with concerns to consider, possibilities to ponder and morals to question. Where do you draw the line at what can be created with a bit (or a lot) of creative photoshop? And how much further can this idea be expanded? I loved this story and for the most part I was engaged with the characters, though some were just too difficult to like, but the more I think about the ramifications and the possibilities the more disturbed I become.
You Wish is book #18 for the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge 2018.