Author: Jennifer Scoullar
Brumby’s Run is a beautiful and heartfelt debut novel written by Jennifer Scoullar; a committed conservationist, foster carer and advocate for children’s rights who is passionate about holistic grazing techniques, land management and government policy on national parks. She has bred and ridden horses all her life. I’m not usually one to go into much of a bio of the authors I review but in this case I felt it was relevant because all of these characteristics are inherent throughout the novel.
Ostensibly this is a novel about Sam and Charlie, twins separated at birth when one is put up for adoption, but there is so much more captured between these pages just crying out to be discovered.
As I sit thinking about how to approach this review I keep getting stuck on Parent Trap movies where twins were separated at birth and each raised by one parent; they meet accidentally, swap places and conspire to reunite their parents. That isn’t what happened here but there are enough similarities that I can understand why my subconscious is stuck on this track. Mary is a young woman, pregnant and all alone, facing single parenthood before she has finished growing up herself. Discovering she is carrying twins leaves her with a heartbreaking choice, but it’s one she can’t avoid – she knows she can’t raise twins on her own so the only choice is to adopt one of her girls to a family who can’t have children of their own. Eighteen years later Charlie is critically ill and the best chance of recovery lies in the hands of her twin sister.
Charlie’s illness brings the sisters together and it seems they are chalk and cheese. Charlie is a little wild and untamed having been brought up with mother Mary, a little untamed herself. They have done it pretty tough in small town Currajong while Sam was adopted to a well off couple in Melbourne. She has been strictly parented and protected, never really allowed to explore her life or her surroundings. The biggest difference is that Charlie has always known she had a twin who was adopted, Sam had no idea she was even adopted.
One thing the girls do have in common is their love of horses, and the isolation they both felt growing up. Charlie is concerned about her horses at Brumby’s Run as she recovers in hospital so the girls decide that Sam should go keep an eye on things.
We spend the majority of the book with Sam at Brumby’s Run, seeing a new side of life and exploring her independence; starting to experience a little of what life may have been like. Finally she has the room to find herself and start to process all of this new information – and try to work out how these changes affect her definition of self.
Both of the girls have an opportunity to step outside of themselves and take a second look, to see themselves through someone else’s eyes and live up to their own potential without expectation.
The twins is not the only story explored at Brumby’s Run, there is a band of other very important characters in this novel. Brumby’s Run addresses the plight of the brumby’s and takes quite a long hard look at their character, their history and their treatment. I really felt for this misunderstood band of horses. Jennifer Scoullar has written the horses extremely well, they share quite a few character traits with the girls and they come into their own under her loving fingers, each one of them is a character in their own right and is recognised as such.
Brumby’s Run is a heartfelt novel about that journey we all take to find ourselves, and what we find along the way. There was enough ambiguity surrounding the girls in the beginning that you were left wondering all the way through if you were ever going to get the answers you were after, the suspense allowed for quite a few lines of what if enquiry.
A well written debut that explores many of Scoullar’s passions and leaves me enthusiastic about her future work. And itching to go horse riding to be completely honest – and I haven’t done that in near on 20 years.