15 October 2010

The Vintage and the Gleaning

by Jeremy Chambers

The Text Publishing Company. Australian, Adult Fiction. Paperback rrp $32.95

Twenty-first century in central rural Australia. A white boy raised by nuns in the dusty outback with young mission Aborigines. Smithy left the home as soon as possible to live the life of a top gun shearer. Weathered and well travelled throughout the farms, he marries and has a son, Spit.

Smithy’s whole life is spent working and drinking and when his wife dies, Smithy and his son continue living in their small winemaking town near the Murray River, working in the vineyards. Medical problems force Smithy into sobriety and his world is opened up in a new unfamiliar way. He realises Spit, who is married with a child, is starting to go on the same downhill bend Smithy travelled.

When a local woman, Charlotte, asks for a place to stay the night before her violent husband, Brett Clayton, gets out of gaol, Smithy opens his humble home to her. The two begin a strange relationship, not friends, not lovers, but confidant and listener. While Charlotte pours out her soul, Smithy listens and silently reflects on his own life.

Without alcohol scattering and confusing his consciousness, his clarity of his past shrouds him with guilt, regret and long lost feelings. Looking back Smithy realises that he wasn’t a good husband and he hopes his loving dead wife will be able to forgive him, wherever she is. Can he help Charlotte and Spit and then be able to redeem himself?

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