Book Review: Currawong Creek

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Author: Jennifer Scoullar
ISBN: 978-1-921901-56-0
RRP: $29.99

An emotional and engaging rural fiction that delves into many important issues and packs a massive punch.


Clare Mitchell is a driven and passionate Brisbane lawyer working for legal aid, she has a sophisticated ambitious lawyer boyfriend and lives in a suburban apartment. She is focused on her goals and aims to be a trail lawyer. Working for legal aid sees her representing many cases involving drug abuse, theft, alcohol abuse, domestic violence and at times fighting for a second chance for parents to be reunited with their children.

Everything changes in an instant when Taylor and her boyfriend come in for an appointment with a four year-old boy and then never come back from a quick smoke break. Clare is left with Jack and all attempts to see him removed from her presence end in extreme cases of him acting out. The Department of Human Services try to find a place for him but it seems that his file is already quite chunky and he needs a special placement, which is hard to find, so they attempt to put him in a residential housing unit. A very difficult situation for any child to adjust to but little Jack is only 4 and this placement could place him at risk. Clare refuses to let that happen and fights to take him on temporarily.

Culture shock does not even come close to describing the situation Clare finds herself in. Taking in any child, especially if you have very limited experience with children, is going to require major adjustments but when you take on a challenging child… totally new stratosphere.

The file on Jack is filled with diagnoses placing him high on the autism spectrum, completely non-verbal and prone to extreme acting out – often violent towards himself or others. Clare has witnessed the acting out but she believes the diagnoses must be wrong because Jack spoke to her, but the file states otherwise so Clare must be wrong.

Even after devouring the entire book I am still undecided as to whether I think all of the diagnoses were wrong or if the many changes to Jack’s lifestyle were completely responsible for his huge behavioural changes. Dealing with the behaviours of a challenging child is difficult, for anyone. At times it is nearly impossible not to feel overwhelmed and wonder what on earth you’re doing wrong. I have a darling affectionate child who also shares some of these challenging behaviours so to an extent I can relate.

Scoullar’s central characters all spoke to me, there was something to endear them to me or intrigue me about them, and that goes for Samson the German shepherd and Red the blue heeler as well.

Currawong Creek

Clare is focused on her goals and an absolute city girl, until she spends 5 minutes with Jack and immediately starts seeing signs directing her to her childhood days far from the city. We also discover that Clare has a 5 month old German shepherd pup living in her apartment – a pup she inherited when her father passed away so she couldn’t bear to rehome.

Clare’s empathetic streak kicks in quick and she is totally smitten with young Jack, even though he is extremely challenging to get out of the house and into daycare in the mornings. Before long Clare is taking leave and heading into the country to reconnect with her grandfather, and her childhood, at his property. Jack progresses rapidly with a steady routine, quality time with adults who adore him, an extremely protective bodyguard and companion in Samson and more freedom and room to roam and be himself. There is also a part of me that thinks his massive changes are partly because he is with new people who have no expectations of his behaviour, and I am wary of all the diagnoses because it’s hard to get a true reading of a child – of anyone – if you are doing it outside of an environment they are comfortable in, though I’m not sure Jack ever would have had one of those.

There are so many wonderful elements of the story with Jack, a gorgeous four year old that I fell in love with. Yes, he was a challenge and would be for anyone; especially his very young addict mother and his extremely inexperienced with children foster care provider. But he was beautiful and he thrived in an environment that engaged him. His relationship with Samson, the two of them were kindred spirits that bonded immediately. Tom also started some Equine Therapy with Jack and that whole process has me intrigued and interested, and it made such a difference.

That’s probably enough about that, more than enough even. Let me just say that the sensitivity and the positivity Scoullar lent to the relationship between Clare and Jack touched my heart, the bond that grew so strongly and the massive impact they had on each others lives was heartwarming and very empowering. I always shudder to think of what may happen to a child who is given a label like Jacks, or many others, if they are in a situation where that label is accepted as unchangeable and worked around rather than challenged, it is seen as a limitation and so it becomes a limitation.

The country change is just what everyone needed. Samson and Jack both undergo immense changes, Clare relaxes and allows her childhood to come flooding back, and old Harry is just thrilled to have his girl back home after way too many years. Not to forget Tom, the gorgeous and single local vet, whose practice is on the property. He comes to life as his feelings for Clare grow but we never really get a grasp on where he’s come from and that’s what intrigued me about him. He has strong opinions at times, that go against Clare’s, and things look set to go very bad.

I have focused here on Jack because that is the storyline that touched me the deepest but there were so many other things going on that had far reaching ramifications and turned out to be quite closely linked.

There is a very important environmental story within these pages as well with the Pyramid Mining Company  and their explorations in prime farming land, and the environmental impact that can have. Scoullar addresses these impacts, and the legalities surrounding them all frankly and at times painfully. The story takes an indepth look at both sides and the deceit that is often hidden in the background.

Small town community is a big part of Currawong Creek and that is plain from the bartering with the vet to the peaceful protest and the final heartbreak. It’s also a timely reminder that sometimes we need to take a step back and look at the big picture to see if our drive and ambition is what we really want.

Jennifer Scoullar touched me with Currawong Creek and I look forward to seeing what comes next.

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