Riptides by Kirsten Alexander

There are three immediate elements you can expect from local author Kirsten Alexander. You can expect the story to be multi-layered. You can expect there to be twists and turns in the plot. And you can be sure that at some point you will be asking yourself, what would I do?

Alexander’s second novel is set in Queensland in 1974 and centres on the actions of two siblings. Abby and Charlie are driving to visit their father when they swerve into the path of another car, forcing it to run off the road. The pregnant driver is killed. In a moment of sheer panic, they leave the driver there and continue their journey, only fi nding out later who the driver is. Alexander uses a twin narrative style with Charlie and Abby’s voices so you can consider the situation from multiple angles.

Were they right to not tell? As the investigation into the death continues over Christmas, the siblings’ anxiety intensifies and is made worse by the humidity of the Queensland summer. Alexander, who is personally very familiar with the Brisbane of this era, makes many references to popular culture, headline news and police corruption. It makes this scenario very plausible. Alexander’s skill lies in shifting your focus from the story to a more general position. How to be good? Does one bad decision mean you are forever tarnished?

Readers who have enjoyed Carrie Tiffany or Charlotte Wood’s work will relish this read. All of these writers have the ability to show you how one small detail can follow your footsteps, relentlessly rearranging everything you thought you could consider to be yours. Read this novel for that particular sinking feeling and for the portrait of a time now over.

Chris Gordon is the programming and events manager for Readings.

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Kirsten Alexander

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