Too Much Lip by Melissa Lucashenko
Melissa Lucashenko’s last novel, Mullumbimby, opened me up to a conversation about feminism, culture and land rights that has stayed with me for years, so I was excited to read her new book. Too Much Lip returns readers to Bundjalung country in Northern New South Wales and brilliantly showcases Lucashenko’s talent for constructing funny, fraught and powerful stories driven by complex characters and compelling, true-to-life dramas.
The Salter family is in crisis: Pop Owen Addison, their respected, powerful, violent patriarch, is dying and Jim Buckley, Patterson’s bent mayor and greedy real-estate cowboy, has designs on Salter ancestral country. Prodigal daughter Kerry has avoided home, her family and prison for years, but returns to Durrongo on a stolen motorbike, freshly single. When she and her siblings get wind of Buckley’s plot, ripples of revolutionary fervour begin to mobilise the local Indigenous community, but they also dredge up the traumatic roots of the Salter siblings’ dysfunctional childhood and disaffected adulthood. If this weren’t enough tension, avowed lesbian Kerry finds herself falling for a white, male boxing coach. And no one can forget their missing sister, Donna, now gone nineteen years with no word.
I loved Too Much Lip, and read it almost in one sitting. Lucashenko combines sexy, foul-mouthed and charming comedy with moving and incisive representations of contemporary Goorie politics and struggles, again making land and property a central issue. This is a novel about violence – colonial, domestic and social – and redemption. It had me biting my nails as the characters mustered for a fight while wrangling their demons. Lucashenko writes brilliant Indigenous women, and she complicates the tensions between Indigenous ownership and Settler theft of country with feminist struggle in an impoverished, ‘redneck’ town, drawing characters into a conflict which is incredibly entertaining and intensely thought-provoking. We are fortunate to have writers like Lucashenko, who has given us such a triumphant next move.