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You Belong Here

 

In 1985, the Slaters had their last family Christmas.

After that, there occurred a series of sad but necessary events: a weakening of the foundation, perhaps, or the lack of a fundamental family structure. For the children (or at least those who cared to listen), there was the occasional sound of branches scraping the roof, the continuing creak of the floorboards. They attended subsequent Christmases, sometimes out of obligation but as much out of hope. They wrote especially personal messages on present tags to mark the moment, and stay alive, and take deep breaths, and say, Maybe one day this will be better.

Not so easy for the parents, for once you’re in love, its lack can feel like a door that’s been left open. Not so easy for the kids but they tried as best they could, in time shunning action figures for scientific calculators, hair bands for a sketchbook.

Life, in turn, became no longer a continuous narrative, more a series of moments that came and went, and in time grew to define them.

And still, they held on to 1985. Jay had a soft spot for a song released that year, hoping one day they might sing it again. Alex watched a young Craig McDermott throw comets at the Poms on the family Phillips, hoping he might one day get a chance to be similarly pivotal on the pitch, if and when the opportunity arose.

Emily was unable to put her nostalgia down to something so specific. She had simply enjoyed the way her family had filled the dinner table. She hoped they might one day do it again; say, ‘We’re here’, and be proud of the fact.

In fact, a lot had happened before 1985. It’s just that no one had ever thought to check the foundations.

“You Belong Here is an unforgettable exploration of the things that hold families together, and tear them apart. It finds the extraordinary in ordinary lives, and brings a tenderness, honesty and sense of humour that’s rarely seen in Australian fiction. It’s beautifully written and stays with you long after it is finished.”

-       Ryan O’Neill, author, Their Brilliant Careers, The Weight of a Human Heart
 

You Belong Here will be published by Margaret River Press in April, 2018.