Loveland by Robert Lukins

Loveland is a gentle and compassionate read written by an author who understands how to hold the secrets of the story close. Here, in his second novel, Robert Lukins explores women’s lives and the impact of intergenerational violence. Slowly and carefully, he constructs this beautiful novel into a story that celebrates strength, acknowledges fear and violence, and illustrates the great sovereignty of friendship.

May has left her son and husband in Australia to travel to Loveland, Nebraska, to claim the house her grandmother left to her. The property is set on a poisoned lake and is part of a decaying housing estate. Despite the seemingly grim environment, this abode offers May a means of escaping the control of her truly contemptible husband. As she starts to repair the old house, May discovers more about her silent, emotionally distant grandmother, Casey. She becomes friends with Jean, a long-term resident of Loveland, who was her grandmother’s closest and greatest ally. As the story unfolds – one chapter from the 1950s, another in the present – we learn how violence is carried across generations, but also, we absorb the type of courage and fortitude needed to escape aggression. There are always consequences to choices and actions for every person involved.

I read this novel in one sitting. Despite the topic, this novel is peaceful. Lukins’ power as a novelist is to slowly unravel the story and to expose you to May’s pain and aspirations. It is a familiar story, but told with a great sense of redemption and hope. I was profoundly moved by the elegance and immutability of it all. Loveland has all the makings of an Australian classic and indeed, I imagine it will be making its way to screens across the country at some point.

Chris Gordon is the programming and events manager at Readings.

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Robert Lukins

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