Author: Nicki Edwards
I was introduced to Nicki Edwards with the Escape to the Country series and have read all her work. The Peppercorn Project is a deviation from Escape to the Country but still shares some major similarities with the series. We have a close knit small town, a nurse and a hero with baggage. More than that, we have the interesting premise of a thriving small town wanting to give something back instead of a tree change/ sea change reality show where a struggling small town bring in new families to try and revive their town.
The small South Australian town of Stony Creek isn’t struggling, they don’t need to bring in new residents and they don’t need city folk but they want to offer struggling families a second chance and an opportunity to get their lives back on track. Four families will be given the opportunity to move to Stony Creek on a peppercorn lease agreement, their rent will be $1 a week for the first 12mths after which it will revert to market prices – much lower than those in the city.
Isabelle Cassidy is one of twenty families interviewing to become a part of The Peppercorn Project. She is the widowed mother of 2 children still coming to terms with the tragic loss of her husband 6 months earlier. The move from Torquay would be a major upheaval for the family but Isabelle is running out of options, the bank is moving in on the house and the Cassidy’s weren’t prepared for what would happen in this situation. The interview goes pear shaped fast and Isabelle is sure she has blown her only chance at a fresh start, of course that’s not the case or we wouldn’t have a story.
Most of the town are completely behind the idea of bringing in four new families to give them a fresh start. The condition is that they need to give something back to the community, which puts Isabelle further behind the 8-ball as she’s not working and though she’s a registered nurse she is far from comfortable with the idea of nursing at the moment.
Not all residents of the town are happy with the idea of the Peppercorn Project, police officer Matt Robertson is a relative newcomer to town and he’s not thrilled with importing city slickers into their quiet country town. He is still very much a city copper coming to terms with the different pace of life in the country. He is caught up with the ice epidemic taking hold across the country and wary of the new dynamic city families could bring to their town.
The Peppercorn Project is about the fresh start offered to Isabelle and her children, but it’s also about the shift in the town that comes with fresh faces and the heartbreaking epidemic affecting millions of people across the country. The addition of the ice issue in The Peppercorn Project is topical and appropriate because we all need to realise that no-one is safe, regardless of where you live. This isn’t just a city problem, drugs are becoming more prevalent everywhere – including small country towns.
Edwards addresses some tough issues with sensitivity and insight. It’s an interesting look at moving on from grief and holding on, but also the way the dynamic changes when everyone around you moves on but you’re not ready for that yet.
An interesting angle is the change in dynamic of the town and how easy it is to point fingers and place blame on the new because timing and circumstance makes it convenient but it is just as likely to be someone you least expect.
Interesting, in-depth and topical The Peppercorn Project is sweetly romantic while looking at a much bigger picture for communities, for families and for those left behind to move on.
The characters were well written and well fleshed but I still would have liked a little more insight into the children and how they were really coping with all the changes. They seemed to do extremely well once the move actually took place, which is fantastic, but I would have liked to see a bit more of the bad days that must have occurred for the balance.
I really enjoyed my trip to Stony Creek and I would like Edwards to take us back there to see how everyone is getting along after the peppercorn leases, see who stayed and who left as well as updates on the rest of the town.
The Peppercorn Project is book #24 for the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge 2016.
The Peppercorn Project is available from May 31st from Booktopia, Angus and Robertson Bookworld, Pan Macmillan (All devices except Kindle), Amazon (Kindle), Amazon UK (Kindle), iBooks Store (iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Mac).