Gone by Jennifer Mills

Following his release from a Sydney prison, Frank catches a train heading south. He has nothing; no cash, no supplies and no identity. He’s going out west to the home he hasn’t seen for 15 years and he will get there the only way his means will allow: hitchhiking. And so begins Frank’s desolate journey. Every day he wakes with nothing and relies on the kindness of strangers to get him to the next town and, if he’s lucky, to buy him a burger at a roadhouse cafe. The conversation becomes a ritual: Where’ve you come from? Where’re you heading? His travel companions are curious and grateful for a bit of friendly chatter. But Frank remains guarded and alert, constantly reminded of the unforgiving outback landscape and feeling plagued by the whispers of ‘backpacker murderers’ out on the open road. Then we start to realise that Frank is plagued by his own secret. A terrifying incident from his boyhood resurfaces through a series of flashbacks and we start to understand the true reason forFrank’s pilgrimage home.

This is a novel that builds slowly and works its way under your skin. It’s cleverly paced and the suspense runs through it like a babbling creek. Mills’s secondary characters are flawlessly drawn, providing plot twists and at times, light and humour, all without overshadowing our desperate hero. For me, the biggest triumph is the portrayal of the bleak surroundings. The outback towns breathe a life of their own, fuelling the novel’s sense of paranoia and dread. This is a satisfying novel that examines one of life’s biggest journeys: what it means to go home.

Steph Little is a freelance reviewer

Cover image for Gone


Jennifer Mills

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