Sheerwater

Leah Swann

Sheerwater
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Sheerwater

Leah Swann

Emotional, powerful, unforgettable. From a stunning new literary talent, you won’t be able to put down this novel about a mother’s love for her children - it will break your heart. 

Ava and her two young sons, Max and Teddy, are driving to their new home in Sheerwater, hopeful of making a fresh start in a new town, although Ava can’t but help keep looking over her shoulder. They’re almost at their destination when they witness a shocking accident - a light plane crashing in the field next to the road. Ava stops to help, but when she gets back to the car, she realises that somewhere, amongst the smoke, fire and confusion, her sons have gone missing…   

From a substantial new Australian writing talent, Sheerwater is tense, emotional, unforgettable. Perfect for readers of Mark Brandi’s Wimmera and Stephanie Bishop’s The Other Side of the World, this is a beautifully written, propulsive, gut-wrenching and unputdownable novel - an aching, powerful story of the heroic acts we are capable of in the name of love.   

‘Sheerwater is that rare gift of a book that balances gorgeous, glittering language with breathless pace. Leah Swann writes with devastating honesty … This is an extraordinary novel - I tore through it, captivated by the imagery and the setting, desperately hoping for a happy ending.’ Rebecca Starford, author of Bad Behavior

Review

Leah Swann’s debut novel is literary fiction with the tempo of a crime novel. Told over three dramatic days, even astute readers will be stunned by the conclusion.

Ava, the mother of two young boys, is driving towards Sheerwater, an idyllic town on the Great Ocean Road. Within pages, Ava’s hypervigilance and mental checklists alert the reader that this is not a casual trip or holiday. She has resigned from her job, and will begin a new job over one hundred kilometres away. She has forwarded her mail, but not her husband’s. When nine-year-old Max asks ‘When’s Daddy going to come?’, she gives a vague answer.

For all her planning, the last thing Ava expects is for a light plane to crash in a field next to the highway. She can tell the occupants need rescuing, and her instincts kick in. However, when she returns to her car, her boys are missing. The police are called and the investigation begins.

After this, the narrative splits into the voices of several characters. While Ava’s voice provides the primary perspective, we hear from her husband, Laurence, as the police interview him. Laurence then comes to the Geelong area to begin his own search. The author also captures the voice of young Max as he navigates changing circumstances and tries to reassure and care for his four-year-old brother. This rendition of Max is sensitive and believable and reminded me of the child’s voice in Room by Emma Donaghue.

To say more about the plot would involve spoilers, but this is a well-paced read. Sheerwater focuses on a crucial social issue, and readers would do well to pair it with the Stella Prize-shortlisted See What You Made Me Do by Jess Hill.


Annie Condon works as a bookseller at Readings Hawthorn.

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