Leap by Myfanwy Jones
Three years on from a tragedy that claimed the love of his life, twenty-something Joe loses himself in menial work, parkour and his mentorship of a teenage delinquent, using burnout and exhaustion as a coping mechanism. When a beautiful nurse temporarily moves into his spare room and a mysterious Facebook profile wants to reminisce about his dead girlfriend, he begins to wonder if there is more out there for him.
Meanwhile, middle-aged artist Elise becomes obsessed with the tigers at Melbourne Zoo, visiting them in a secret weekly ritual that allows her an escape from her crumbling marriage and her own spiralling sense of loss that threatens to overtake everything.
Myfanwy Jones’ writing pulses, pushed along with an irrepressible dynamism that echoes its protagonists. Rather than wallowing in self-pity or drug-addled self-destruction, what makes Joe’s character so compelling is his nihilistic energy and battle against his own ambition. Jones captures with a real clarity the swirling mix of rage, hope and world-weariness of the millennial male. This energy make’s Joe’s narrative arguably the stronger of the two, but it’s thrown into relief by Elise’s quieter, more introspective storyline.
The women in Joe’s life, to varying degrees, seem intent on redeeming him – pushing back against his guilt, grief and insistence that he’s not worth their trouble. The nurse who moves in is unnamed and interacts with no-one else in the novel – deliberately one-dimensional, transient, barely real. But then there are other characters, like Joe’s co-worker Lena, so vibrant and full of life they practically leap off the page.
While the narrative at times feels a little crowded with motifs and characters, some left unresolved, each element is enjoyable and contributes to the boisterous, buzzing tone of the novel. Stylistically similar to the most recent novels of Chris Flynn and Chris Womersley, Leap is a pleasure to read and a compelling piece of Australian contemporary fiction.
Alan Vaarwerk is the editorial assistant for Readings Monthly.