Currawong Creek by Jennifer Scoullar

In brief: When Clare meets Jack, her life changes in many ways. Going back to Currawong Creek throws a number of diversions in her way, such as the local vet…

The good: Lovely multilayered story combining romance with environmental issues and family.

The not-so-good: The story needs more birds! (If you read this, you’ll see what I mean).

Why I chose it: Taken in by the lovely cover, so requested from Net Galley. Thanks to Penguin Books.

Year: 2013

Pages: 312

Publisher: Penguin

Setting: Queensland, Australia

My rating: 9 out of 10

I was first intrigued by the lovely cover of Currawong Creek (I know the old saying, but the winding road, low cloud and mysterious mountains got to me). This book is so much more than I expected – there’s broken families, environmental issues and a romance. The beautiful descriptions of the Queensland bush put my mind back there in an instant.

Despite the cover, Currawong Creek doesn’t start in the country. It starts in Brisbane, the capital city of Queensland, Australia. Clare is a lawyer working for Legal Aid – it’s another step on a carefully planned career path. She’s all about her career, but her main emphasis is helping people. When one of her clients runs off leaving her son in Clare’s office, Clare unexpectedly decides to take Jack on. The social worker and her colleagues warn her that she’s not prepared for Jack’s problems. Clare’s boyfriend can’t believe what she’s done. With her father’s puppy and Jack, Clare tries to continue her life as it was before – and fails. After a rude shock at a work function, Clare decides to contact her grandfather, who her father refused contact with. With Jack and the dog Samson, she’s off to a Queensland outback farm. There, Jack flourishes and Clare becomes close to the local vet, Tom. However, a mining company is forcing landowners to allow fracking – but there appears to be dangerous consequences. Can Clare save Currawong Creek, Jack and be happy in the process?

I loved this book. It was gentle, thought provoking and funny. Tom, as the vet, has plenty of humourous episodes involving animals (there’s some good ones with dogs). Scoullar has also won a fan in me from including birds in the narrative – one very sad part involving a cockatoo and some budgies. The animals also bring out Tom’s sensitive side and the reader can clearly see the contrast between Tom and Clare’s previous boyfriend Adam. Clare’s grandfather, Harry, is somewhat of an old Australian farmer type – but don’t start thinking about clichés and stereotypes. Harry is a lot more than that and his actions at time, while surprising, fit in perfectly with his character.

Clare herself starts as a bit of an enigma – she seems truly devoted to her work, but then takes on Jack which is out of character. It’s not that Clare is uncaring (far from it), but it’s an extension of her tendencies to solve everything into her personal life. One interesting point raised is that Clare had recently lost her father, but her bereavement doesn’t seem to have much of an impact on her life. We get the idea that Clare wasn’t very close to her father, so is she seeking a replacement family in Jack and Samson the dog? Is that why she clings to Jack so tightly? Whatever the reason, Clare fostering Jack as a single woman is something to be applauded.

I liked how Scoullar didn’t let the future custody of Jack overtake the book; otherwise I think it would have had a different tone. Although the book details social worker visits, restrictions and visits (pretty accurately to my rather limited knowledge), Clare never lets the fact that Jack is a boy with his own rights to be clouded over. While I wasn’t sure what to make of his mum Taylor and what her intentions were (if any), I believed that she did want the best for her son. Perhaps it was her immaturity that made her run hot and cold with Clare.

Combining the family drama with the controversial issue of fracking and potential health hazards was really interesting. Again, the environmental issue didn’t overpower the warmth of the narrative, but it was educational without being boring (a tough task). It made me wonder what the legal situation is in my own state and to be cautious if the situation ever arose!

A beautiful balance of story combined with real-life issues, I enjoyed the warmth of Currawong Creek. The beautiful descriptions of the Queensland bush put my mind back there.


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