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Kathryn Heyman

What remains after everything is washed away?

Funny, moving and utterly compelling, Floodline tells of the unexpected salvation that can be found on the edge of disaster.

When the city of Horneville is destroyed by a flood on the eve of a huge gay Mardi Gras, Mikey Brown the feisty, sexy and dynamic host of a Christian shopping channel knows exactly what she needs to do. Taking her sons with her, she sets out on a grand mercy mission. The journey is more than a flood clean-up for Mikey - she wants to save the city and teach the godless inhabitants a lesson. Her husband was lost to her after attempting to ‘mission’ to this same festival and this is her chance to lay the past to rest.

Mustard - an enthusiastic, ebullient, 8 year old - doesn’t believe his father is dead. In fact, he is determined to find him and knows that Horneville is the place to start looking. If anyone can bring him back, Mustard can and his determination to do so will lead him to terrible danger.

Down in the city, the floodwater surrounding the Horneville City Hospital is steadily rising, turning what has been a place of refuge into a disaster zone. Deep in the hospital chaos, Nurse Gina Donaldson is forced to make a life and death decision with shattering repercussions.

The arrival of Mikeys little troupe helps Gina find hope in the most unlikely places. Both Mikey and Gina must stare down their pasts in order to find salvation, but will they have the courage? 


After reading the blurb for Floodline, I was worried I was in for something a little more lightweight than you’d expect from Kathryn Heyman: ‘The feisty, sexy and dynamic host of a Christian shopping channel’ sets out on a grand mercy mission to save the town of Horneville from ‘the gays’ after a terrible flood has destroyed the city.

But this book has real depth and soul. While the characters are diverse – and could have become chaotic in the hands of a less-skilled writer – under Heyman’s guidance they are full of heart, utterly three-dimensional and played completely straight.

Floodline uses a split narrative to pick through the wreckage wrought by epic disaster on ordinary lives. One disaster is smaller, more everyday, but is of course huge in the lives of the people it involves. A marriage betrayal – slowly teased out and laid bare to the reader as we get further into the book – laps at the feet of the family involved, threatening to drag them under unless they release the floodgates and let forgiveness and truth flow.

A parallel storyline examines the impact of a treacherous flood. Inspired by the real-life aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and the Queensland floods a couple of years back, this story is seen from the perspective of a nurse involved in caring for patients at the major Horneville hospital. Generators have broken down; water has run out; medical supplies are dwindling; the heat is stifling; no one has slept for days; evacuation of particular patients seems impossible; and horrific decisions are made.

But in the end, this book is not just about struggling to keep your head above water: it’s also about hope and cleansing – and it’s a cracking good read.

Gabrielle Williams is a bookseller at Readings Malvern.

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