Twenty years ago, Abigail Sorenson’s brother Robert went missing one day before her sixteenth birthday, never to be seen again. That same year, she began receiving scattered chapters in the mail from a mysterious guidebook, whose anonymous authors promised to make her life soar to heights beyond her wildest dreams.
These missives have remained a constant in Abi’s life – a befuddling yet oddly comforting voice through her family’s grief over her brother’s disappearance, a move across continents, the devastating dissolution of her marriage, and the new beginning as a single mother and café owner in Sydney.
Now, two decades after receiving those first pages, Abi is invited to learn ‘the truth’ about the book. It’s an opportunity too intriguing to refuse – she believes its absurdity and her brother’s disappearance must be connected. What follows is an entirely unexpected journey of discovery that will change Abi’s life – and enchant readers.
I haven’t read any of this author’s YA novels but I’m aware that this is the second one she has written for adults (the first being her 2004 “fairy tale for adults”, I Have a Bed Made of Buttermilk Pancakes) and, having read many positive reviews of it, I was looking forward to reading it. However, I have to admit that I struggled with it right from the start because I found it impossible to believe that the narrative voice was convincing as that of a thirty-six-year-old woman! Abi came across as very much younger and I found myself thinking that, for all its vaguely philosophical musings, this is probably a story which would possibly appeal more to a much younger readership. I recognise that it does include some important themes, such as unresolved loss, grief, fractured relationships, single-parenthood, the search for love and the need to make sense of events which appear to make no sense, but I felt that there wasn’t enough of a satisfying psychological depth to the author’s exploration of these themes. I found it equally difficult to feel entirely engaged with either the characters or the plot.
I think the story’s potential could perhaps have been achieved had it been shorter but, at the length it was, there were just too many moments when I found myself becoming a little irritated and bored by what felt like some rather simplistic reflections on “the meaning of life” … although I did enjoy some of the author’s cutting observations about the self-help “industry”! There were also moments when I enjoyed Abi’s internal “musings”, some of which were hilarious.
With thanks to Readers First and the publisher for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review – I’m just sorry it couldn’t have been a more positive one!
Linda Hepworth 2/3*
Gravity is the Thing by Jaclyn Moriarty
978-1-76087-567-1 Allen & Unwin Hardback January 2020