Hare’s Fur is about what follows grief. Russell Bass, a seventy-two-year-old potter, lives alone in Katoomba. Adele and Michael, his wife and child, have both died. Time still passes. He wakes early, drinks coffee, visits friends, throws clay.
One morning, seeking basalt for glazes at a nearby creek, Russell discovers three siblings living in a cave: two young children, Todd and Emma, and their teenage sister, Jade. Moved to act, he brings them food, offers them help. At first hesitant, they come to trust him, and a tentative relationship begins.
Hare’s Fur is a tale of convalescence, a restrained, moving story about how we discover new meaning in the wake of anguish. While Trevor Shearston’s prior fiction has largely explored the fictionalisation of historical figures – Jack Emanuel’s assassination in A Straight Young Back (2000), Italian explorer Luigi D’Albertis in Dead Birds (2007), the bushranger Ben Hall in Game (2013) – Hare’s Fur proves the writer’s talent beyond historical saga. Katoomba, nestled in the heart of the Blue Mountains, also provides a vivid backdrop. Privy to its ‘tea-trees, acacias, and hakeas’, its ‘grevillea laurifolia, dillwynia, and hibbertia’, Shearston is clearly at home; it’s no surprise that he lives there.
This serenity is occasionally disrupted by superfluous touches – Russell’s internal, italicised musings, for one, tend to get in the way. We are also rationed only fragments of the lives of Adele and Michael – in one beautiful passage, Russell watches Todd approach a wallaby, recalling Michael once doing the same – and we are left wanting more.
Overall, Hare’s Fur is about the inevitable reconfiguring of a life. It shows us that, like Kintsugi, the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with seams of gold, we too can mend ourselves, we too can reconnect our pieces.