Gravity Well

Melanie Joosten

Gravity Well
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Gravity Well

Melanie Joosten

Lotte is an astronomer who spends her nights peering into deep space rather than looking too closely at herself. When she returns to her hometown after years in South America, reeling from a devastating diagnosis, she finds that much has changed.

Lotte’s father has remarried, and she feels like an outsider in the house she grew up in. She’s estranged from her former best friend, Eve, who is busy with her own life, and unsure of how to recover the closeness they once shared. Initially, Lotte’s return causes disharmony, but then it is the catalyst for a much more devastating event - an event that will change Lotte and Eve’s lives forever.

If families are like solar systems - bodies that orbit in time with one another, sometimes close and sometimes far away - what is the force that drives them? And what are the consequences when the weight of one planet tugs others off course?

The long-awaited second novel from the award-winning Melanie Joosten, Gravity Well is a striking and tender tale of friendship and family- both the family we are born to, and the family we choose.  Deeply compassionate and profoundly moving, it is a heartrending portrait of how we rebuild when the worst has happened.

Review

We are told not to judge a book by its cover, but the stunning image on the cover of Melanie Joosten’s Gravity Well portrays her compelling protagonists exactly as they are when the novel opens. Eve, distressed and alone, has taken a bus down the coast to Lorne in mid-winter, with a tent and meagre provisions. The reader is aware that something devastating has occurred, and the novel builds to this revelation.

The juxtaposed image, of astronomer, Lotte, in the desert with only a telescope for company, speaks to her solitude. Lotte is preparing to return from South America to Australia after five years, however she hasn’t told anyone about her plans or the tragic reason behind them. Once Lotte and Eve were firm friends, but when they need each other most, they are estranged.

Joosten uses metaphors and allusions to astronomy to explore these characters’ back stories and relationships. Lotte recalls her mother describing interpersonal relationships as a solar system and each person as a planet: ‘Drift too close to another and you risk falling down a planet’s gravity well, being destroyed on its surface; stay too far away and you risk being cut loose, discarded into the ever-growing reaches of outer space.’ Lotte is chasing what she believes was her late mother’s professional dream to be a world-class astronomer, however her pursuit comes at great personal cost. Eve, a sound engineer, wants meaningful work and to create the stable family she never experienced.

Gravity Well is exceptionally written. Joosten’s meditations on friendship, ambition and family life are wise and thought-provoking. She has created fully rounded and credibly flawed characters, with an authorial gaze moving seamlessly between the broad and the telescopic.


Annie Condon is a bookseller at Readings Hawthorn.

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