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Thursday, August 11, 2011

'A Straight Line To My Heart' by Bill Condon

Received from the Publisher

From the BLURB:

School is over, not just for the year, but forever. Tiff and Kayla are free, which is what they've always wanted, but now summer is nearly at and end and that means life decisions. Tiff is hoping her job at the local paper will lead to something more... But 'The Shark' soon puts her straight on what it takes to become a hard-nosed reporter like him. At home, Reggie - the only grandad Tiff's ever known - has quit the smokes and diagnosed himself as cactus. Then Kayla hits her with some big news. And into all this stumbles Davey, the first boy who has ever really wanted to know her.

Tiff is smart with words and rarely does tears, but in one short week she discovers that words don't always get you there; they don't let you say all the stuff from deep in your heart.

Nothing ever happens in Gungee Creek. Take it from someone who knows; Tiff has lived here almost her whole life, ever since her mum died and her aunt sent her to live with family friends, Reggie and Nell and Nell’s son, Bull. And Tiff can confirm that nothing ever happens in Gungee. Not since Nell died and Tiff was left to be raised by the boof-heads. And not since Tiff befriended the pretty new girl in school, Kayla.

Since then it’s been a whole lot of local rugby games, bingo nights and sneaking out to the cemetery to swig a few drinks. Not even finishing high school could light a fire under Tiff and Kayla while they’re stuck in good, old Gungee.

But maybe all that’s going to change. Tiff has an internship at the local newspaper, the Eagle. Kayla’s mum and her boyfriend are expecting a baby and playing happy families. Bull is getting serious with his girlfriend, Zoe. And a football player from the opposing town has taken a liking to Tiff.

But right when things in Gungee start to perk up, impending tragedy comes knocking. Isn’t it always the way that right when things seem ready to get better, something comes along to muck it all up?

‘A Straight Line to my Heart’ is the new standalone YA novel from Aussie author, Bill Condon.

I didn’t really know what to expect from ‘Straight Line’ – the blurb seemed to be grasping at straws and the title was giving nothing away. So I started the book a bit wary, but I came away with wet eyes and a smile tugging at my mouth.

‘A Straight Line to my Heart’ is a book on the precipice. The characters are all on the verge of their lives, about to be tipped into adulthood, the big wide world and the promise of what’s to come. This isn’t a novel about plot triggers and the igniting instance. Rather, it’s a book holding its breath, introducing characters who are about to unleash their potential on the world and start out on their journeys.

That day I think we really saw each other for the first time. I mean, saw beyond the bag of bones on the outside. You take away her pretty and my plain and what you get underneath is about the same: a couple of lost girls looking to be found.

Tiff is a young woman, nearly eighteen, from an odd amalgamation of a family. Reggie is her ‘adoptive’ grandfather, a man who offered to take care of her when her aunt couldn’t handle the job. Reggie and his wife, Nell, took Tiff in and raised her as their own. Reggie did the same with Nell’s son from a previous marriage, Bull. And when Nell died, Tiff was raised by these two men – one her adoptive grandfather, the other her token brother. True, it’s a strange family – but a loving one nonetheless.

Bull and Reggie support and encourage Tiff’s ambition to get a cadetship at the local paper. Both of them, while not terribly articulate, are proud as punch of their girl Tiff. Reggie especially wants to see Tiff settle down and start her life – because he has diagnosed himself as not long for this world, he wants to get all his affairs in order and his family taken care of. And when a boy from one town over, the awkward and galumphing Davey, takes an interest in Tiff she finally starts to imagine the possibilities for herself . . .

Tiff has only ever had one friend in her life, Kayla. The beautiful and enigmatic Kayla – whose mother was a drinker, constantly pregnant with various father’s for all her brood. Nicknamed ‘Inky’ (short for incubator) Kayla’s mother seems to have turned her life around, all with the help of new boyfriend, Colin. Kayla doesn’t entirely trust the situation, but with her mother and siblings taken care of, she’s finally looking to the future and what she wants to make of herself...

Condon’s characters are vibrant and thoroughly grounded in believability. Reggie is a sweet-hearted curmudgeon, while Bull is a gentle giant – both of them utterly adorable for being mixtures of many men you will know in your own life. That’s part of Condon’s brilliance in writing the small town of Grungee – all of his characters will remind you of people you know; not caricatures, but beautifully constructed people who seem firmly grounded in reality. And one of the reasons Condon’s characters leave such a firm impression is his wonderful ear for dialogue. Really, the rhetoric in ‘Straight Line’ is impressive for all the little verbal nuances – like a ‘yers’ for ‘you guys’ – it all adds up to thoroughly enjoyable Aussie ocker speech.

‘A Straight Line to my Heart’ is a beautiful and tender novel. There’s plenty to make you smile, but by book’s end Condon will have punched you in the guts and left you a teensy-bit heartbroken. Still, ‘Straight Line’ has such lovable characters and Condon's prose and dialogue is melt-in-your-mouth perfection. Superb!

5/5

2 comments:

  1. eep! what a gorgeous review.

    i absolutely cannot wait to read this one. it sounds like it may be his best book yet :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. oooooo tender love me do, yes yes, the precious!

    ReplyDelete