Intelligent, provocative, and intense… A page-turner.
With his keen eye for detail, craft of character development, and expert narrative, Drewitt’s latest literary tale, crossed with boyhood shenanigans, makes for a compelling coming-of-age story. January, 1981. There is not much to do in Robe, the south Australian tourist destination, with a population of 400 in the off season. Sixteen-year-old Andy is more than happy to hang out with Mick, his older brother’s mate. As the boys begin to hang together, Mick introduces Andy to the drop, the entry point to a series of underwater tunnels that lead to god-knows-where. But swimming through caves at night is only the first in a series of misadventures Andy takes part in. Soon, he finds himself experimenting with dangers in his search for life-beyond-death experience. The book displays Drewitt’s flair for authentic imagery and his skill at weaving affecting narrative. Readers will be captivated by the small cast of colorful, idiosyncratic characters, from predictable, hard-working old folks to aimlessly wandering hippies, with their eternal wanderlust for the unfamiliar. The characters’ fears, insecurities, inner turmoil, desires, and disappointments play out against the background of the cozy Australian town, with its white sandy beaches and iconic statues littering the main drag. The chapters told in Andy’s first-person voice beautifully sketch his exhilarating journey: getting accepted in a group of older boys, negotiating the mysteries of the opposite sex. There are dangerous swimming excursions through caves at night, experiments with pure oxygen (hyperventilation on the gas), and kinky sex with a grown woman. The misadventures go on and on. Drewitt deftly evokes emotions as he delves into Andy’s boyhood lusts and passions and his need for acceptance and understanding. There is drama and emotion. There are also small defeats, humiliations, longings, hopes, and fears. By the end of it, Andy realizes that he is a different person than when his friendship with Mick and Glash started. He also realizes that this time in his life will always live in his memory. Surprising narrative shifts are made to include Sofia’s backstory, her diving past, her hunger for the unknown, her relationship with Glash, and peculiar friendship with Andy. Along the way, Drewitt weaves in familiar themes of family ties, friendship, grief, regret, redemption, and how certain turns of events can shape a person. Imbued with emotion, empathy, and an essential understanding of adolescents’ complicated need for acceptance, this deeply intimate, emotionally charged tale is a winner. Lovers of literary fiction won’t want to miss this one.