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Kathleen Jennings

“Strange what chooses to flourish here. Which plants. Which stories.”

Bettina Scott lives a tidy, quiet life in Runagate, tending to her delicate mother and their well-kept garden after her father and brothers disappear - until a note arrives that sends Bettina into the scrublands beyond, searching for answers about what really happened to this town, and to her family.

For this is a land where superstitions hunt and folk tales dream - and power is there for the taking, for those willing to look.           


Nineteen-year-old Bettina hasn’t been the same since her father and brothers disappeared. She lives with her mother, Nerida, in the family home, spending her days running errands and taking care of the garden. But when a mysterious note arrives, Bettina sets off on a journey to learn the truth about her tiny home town of Runagate, and the whereabouts of her missing family members.

Bettina’s quest to find out what happened to her family is the thread that holds each piece of this novel together. But between the events of the overarching plot are a number of fantastical tales: ghostly horse skeletons stalking the land, weeds growing over and consuming entire towns, mysterious girls appearing in the night at the exact same time as sons disappear. For this reader, these forays into imagined local mythology were the highlight of Flyaway. They will draw you further into the book as you inch closer to the sinister truth of its conclusion.

Flyaway is Australian Gothic to its core. The landscape is dry, the local community live in each other’s pockets, and Kathleen Jennings imbues each scene, and indeed each sentence, with a sense of whimsy and mystery. The characters who orbit Bettina’s life and backstory are truly of rural Australia, but would feel just as at home on the pages of a collection of folklore. Through some of the peripheral tales within the book, Jennings acknowledges the painful and bloody history of colonial interactions with First Nations people. This is not a central plot point, more a respectful remembering, and the author offers a reading list of First Nations authors in the acknowledgements section of the book.

This is a bewitching debut novel, and one that I hope finds its way into the hands of all who love Australian Gothic fiction.

Ellen Cregan is the marketing and events coordinator.

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