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Thursday, June 20, 2019

'Things Without a Name' by Joanne Fedler


From the BLURB:

At 34, Faith has given up on love. Her cleavage is disappointing, her best friend is clinically depressed and her younger sister is getting breast implants as an engagement present. She used to think about falling in love, but that was a long time ago. Having heard one too many love-gone-wrong stories from the other side of her desk, Faith is worn thin by her work as a legal counsellor in a women’s crisis centre. Then one night, an odd twist of fate brings her to a suburban veterinary clinic where she wrings out years of unshed tears. It is a night that will slowly change the way she sees herself and begin the unearthing of long-buried family secrets so she can forgive herself for something she doesn’t remember, but that has shaped her into the woman she is today. Faith will finally understand what she has always needed to know: that before you can save others, you have to save yourself.

‘Things Without a Name’ is the 2008 novel by Joanne Fedler.

This novel was gifted to me and I really didn’t know what to expect, but I ended up *inhaling* it in about two-days, and now I’m looking around for anything and everything else the author has written!

First of all: this is not an ‘easy’ novel. Protagonist Faith is a woman dramatically altered by two deaths that book-ended her childhood. When we meet her, Faith is in her 30s and working as a legal counsellor at a women's rape and domestic abuse agency. And despite everything in her life pointing her to the contrary, Faith is still a woman who believes in love and the ability for one’s fortunes to change … which is exactly what happens when a strange sequence of events turns her world upside down.

Beyond seeing this as a ‘Women’s Fiction’ offering, I was really surprised at the heights and depths ‘Things Without a Name’ took me to. On the one hand it is a deeply moving and serious literary fiction novel, but on the other there is romance, a certain gossamer lightness, openness and hope that I think makes it a wonderful general-fiction offering.

For these reasons, I actually found Joanne Fedler to be reminiscent of Jodi Picoult for me – not necessarily in the voice and style of writing, but in the way they both take the personal and political to weave an incredible story. And the same way Picoult immerses herself in research for her books, I was impressed (but not in the least bit surprised) to learn of Fedler’s background as a volunteer legal counsellor at People Opposing Women Abuse (POWA) before setting up and running a legal advocacy centre to end violence against women. She was also appointed by the then Minister for Justice to sit on a project committee of the Law Commission to design new domestic violence legislation.

That this is Fedler’s life absolutely sings through the story – sometimes in sombre tones, and then occasionally with a piercingly lovely tune. There is a tenderness and rawness to this story that I so appreciated;

I fantasized that by the time my little girl was a teenager, violence against women, like concentration camps and gas chambers, would be a shameful nightmare of history, a phase we’d look back on with lofty ‘it’s- hard-to-believe’s’ and ‘how-did-society-allow-it-to-happen’s?
At times it feels like we are circling the same hopeless strategies, never making it through this particular circle of hell.

And it makes the love within resonate that much louder and lovelier, because it’s hard-won for Faith and readers alike.

I’m going to pass this book around to friends and family, and hope they get the same jolt out of it that I did. A somewhat unassuming story – as some of the best ones are – that shook me and reassembled me in the best possible way. Magnificent.

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5/5

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