Wedding Bush Road is a novel about contrasts and conflicts: new-age America versus an old-fashioned Australia; messy rural versus shipshape urban; high status versus low; the past versus the present.
Expat Daniel Rawson is a successful lawyer in Los Angeles. He has been tempered by seven years of ‘California dreaming’; life is good. His graceful girlfriend, Isabel, practises Kundalini yoga and reflexology. As the novel opens, we find the couple in a cabin in a canyon, cosily holed up for the Christmas holidays. All is mindful and embracing. Daniel has been planning to propose to her. From the outset, however, we also know that this idyll has already cracked, the mirrored perfection is already tarnished. There has been a phone call from across the ocean, a siren call from the parched landscape of the past; it is Ruthie, Daniel’s aged mother, down on the family horse farm in the flatlands of South Gippsland. She’s had a fall and, she tells him, will be ‘dead as Dickens by the end of the year’. Time to book the Qantas flight.
Ruthie’s vivid turns of phrase are jarringly fresh and direct compared to the more elegiac thoughts of her only child, as he arrives back home after years away. ‘I get my bag and roll it along the bluestone path to the big house. The long veranda striped by the shadows of the cypress trunks in the late afternoon, the lawn all but dead save for capeweed, the garden thirsty but overgrown.’ The ‘Toovareen Estate’ sign on the gate is drooping, the old homestead, once gracious, is spavined, and there is a burnt-out Mitsubishi in the middle of the bleached paddock.