Jane Harper | Fiction 2018
I read the four-page prologue to Jane Harper’s novel The Lost Man and, though I was sitting in my reading chair with my dogs at my feet, I was transported to the Australian Outback. I was slightly disoriented; her writing was so powerful, I was there, in the Outback.
Brothers Nathan and Bub Bright meet each other at the fence line separating their cattle ranches in the Outback of Australia, to find their third brother Cameron dead at the stockman’s grave. What was he doing out here, his Range Rover nine kilometers away, in a land where you can barely be outside your car during the heat of Christmas week and survive? How did he die? Why did he leave his car? Was it suicide? Something more nefarious?
The scale of the land and the scale of the story both impressed me. It takes four hours to drive from one end of Cameron’s land to the other, and Nathan’s land, not as large, abuts it. It is a very lonely place with dirt tracks for roads. The driveway to the family home where Cameron lives with his wife, two children, his mother, a longtime manager, and his younger brother Bub, is 29 km, 12 miles long.
The narrative is about family dynamics and the discovery of what happened to Cameron, but there is so much more in the story than Cameron’s ill-fated journey. Harper explores love, loyalty, family abuse, and the unique art of living isolated in very rough land, hours away from others.
One reviewer’s words: “part family drama, part indelible ode to the Outback.” I can’t help but recommend this book. Yes, I am enamored by the Australian Outback, which made it doubly pleasurable for me to read. Yes, there is mystery. Yes, it is a gripping story with wonderful rich characters. Yes, it is worth your time.