In brief: Jodie’s a struggling single mum trying to do the best for her daughter, but there’s not enough hours in the day. Will she accept the proposal of someone who offers her stability or will things just get horribly messy?
The good: So many issues, choices (bad and good) and drama that this makes for compulsive reading.
The not-so-good: Some parts are sad.
Pages: 416 (eARC)
Publisher: Bantam Australia (Random House)
Setting: Rural Australia
My rating: 9 out of 10
I think Mountain Ash is Margareta Osborn’s best book yet. Packed full of twists, turns, action and awkward situations, it’s a real page turner.
Mountain Ash is about Jodie Ashton, a single mother trying to make ends meet in a small country town. It’s not easy – juggling shifts at the nursing home, organising care for her daughter Milly and trying to stretch her finances. Older pillar of the community Alex is interested in Jodie and would love to take things further, but would it work between them? There’s not really a spark, but Alex offers stability – something that is incredibly desirable to Jodie for Milly’s sake. Sure, she and Alex may not agree on some things, but that’s okay…isn’t it? His lack of relationship with his own must have a very good reason…
Jodie decides on one final fling before tying herself to Alex – a rodeo and patch working weekend. The patch working is fun, but the rodeo is wild, throwing Jodie into the path of Nate. Nate is everything that Alex isn’t – will Jodie take a chance on a cowboy?
There are so many juicy parts to this novel – some that I didn’t see coming. Osborn takes every opportunity to get poor Jodie absolutely tied up in knots. Sometimes I couldn’t see any way out of situations for Jodie, but then a clever twist would suddenly open up a solution. There are also some amazing secrets revealed towards the end – they make such perfect sense you wonder that you didn’t work it out earlier! The plot is speedy and never dull.
The characters are wonderful too – I couldn’t help liking Jodie as she’s so realistic with her concerns for her daughter and conflict at doing what is right for them both. I thought she was a bit of a pushover at first, but her strength was later demonstrated. Alex was well done too – his kindness and slight creepiness were portrayed in equal measures – I didn’t know whether to feel sorry for him or not! Nate was a lovely cowboy with a heart of gold and his friend Wal was delightful with his old-school charm. Mue was a valuable friend to Jodie, full of wisdom and Jodie’s other friends helped to illustrate how much Jodie could be giving up in her life.
Another thing that Osborn does brilliantly is capture the spirit of the Australian bush – not only the physical, but the generosity that is characteristic of the people. (Mue is a fantastic example of this – she helps Jodie and Milly out well beyond what is expected). The sense of community is also a strong thread through this book, especially at the end when a major event brings all the characters together and demonstrates the strength to help those in need.
A powerhouse of emotion with an exceptionally strong plot, Mountain Ash is a lovely book celebrating the Aussie bush.