Author: Rachael Johns
A strong sense of spirituality combined with one very special little girl finally solves the decades old mystery of Bunyip Bay as Rachael Johns takes us back for what was originally going to be the last of the trilogy. Luckily for us Johns has decided that Bunyip Bay houses more characters deserving of their happily ever after and plans to add at least one more story to the collection. I am certain I am not the only fan jumping for joy at that news.
Outback Ghost focuses on Adam Burton, one time Cleo Bachelor of the Year, working his family’s farm on his own for the first time. His Dad retired earlier in the year and his best friend Monty left town with his girlfriend to work a property a couple of hours away in Outback Dreams.
Stella is our leading lady. She has booked the cottage for a two month stay, hoping to offer her daughter the kind of holiday she grew up with out of the city. She wants to offer her open spaces, animals, the beach and her undivided attention. Stella is a single mum working hard to do her best for Heidi and that means that she has to rely on friends to help out while she works long hours. This summer is a chance for the two of them to share months of alone time.
These characters are both lovely, as are all of the residents of Bunyip Bay that we have come to know throughout the series. All of the major secondary characters get a scene in Ghost, except Monty and Faith but even they get a mention.
I found Outback Ghost to be the most tearful of the trilogy, there are some very emotional scenes. If you have been following the trilogy you would appreciate that this was to be expected in Adam’s story.
Twenty years ago Adam and his little sister were out playing and in the five minutes he was totally focused on fixing his catapult she disappeared, never to be seen again. They searched high and low and could find no sign of her anywhere, the mystery has never been solved. There is still a missing persons file on her, it has never been closed because there has never been any evidence of what happened.
Adam still suffers from crippling guilt that there was something he could have done, if only he hadn’t been distracted. This guilt has seen him keep everyone at arms length and develop an aversion to having children. Over the years he has been more than happy to hookup for a casual fling but as he approaches 30 and his friends start to settle down the shine starts to wear off the pub pick-up and he thinks about the idea of settling down. Unfortunately he is his own worst enemy.
Stella is a self sacrificing single mother who is used to doing it on her own, she has close friends around to help out but there hasn’t been a man since she had her daughter. Heidi comes first, she will always come first. Stella is very much a mumma bear, always ready to fight for her cub. She is used to unwarranted and unwanted judgement and pity, she has been facing it since her ultrasound.
Outback Ghost is written from both perspectives, sometimes in alternating chapters and sometimes with a perspective flip mid chapter. All written in the third person so really easy to follow.
We are quite familiar with much of Adam’s back story so a lot of this is filling in the blanks and getting to know his family. We know his mother hasn’t left the farm in 20 years but we weren’t aware of just how hard she has tried over the years, or how hard it has been for Adam and his dad to live with her through the years.
Stella has moved into the farmstay cottage on Adam’s property, a cottage only recently renovated for rent but none of the guests have managed to stay longer than a night or two. There has been strange noises and they have been spooked out of the place. Of course, none of this is mentioned in the ad and it isn’t until after Stella is well settled that anyone mentions it outright. Stella hears some strange noises and there are some unexplained happenings but she is determined to stick it out for Heidi’s sake, besides they both fell in love with the place in a matter of minutes.
Heidi is a gorgeous seven year old with a beautiful personality and an active imagination. Heidi is a special needs child and she has been written so beautifully that often you don’t even notice, which is exactly how her mum likes it. Don’t take a step back or a second look when you see her, look into her cheeky smile and respond to Heidi. The group of close friends around them at home can do this but Stella is very hesitant when new people meet Heidi because you can’t always predict the response. In Bunyip Bay Heidi is welcomed and cherished as she deserves.
The mystery of Adam’s sisters disappearance is a major part of this story, largely because it has been such a defining factor in the lives of Adam and his family. How though does it tie to the perception that the cottage is haunted? The cottage belonged to Adam’s Uncle Tom who passed away a couple of years ago.
Outback Ghost will break your heart, in so many ways and for so many people but through it all there is hope for a better future. Can Stella find a man who will love Heidi as she deserves? Will Adam finally let go of the guilt and allow himself to believe that he deserves to be happy? And will his mum ever be able to move past her heartbreak and engage in life again?
This is the third in a trilogy but it stands beautifully on its own as well. The three Bunyip Bay books do run chronologically and are linked but each of them stand strong on their own because they focus on a different couple. I hope Bunyip Bay keeps talking to Johns because the end of the series will leave me missing Bunyip Bay terribly.