Sonia Nair

Other Houses by Paddy O'Reilly

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April 2022, no. 441

Other Houses opens with its central character, Lily, cruising a drug-riddled suburb in search of her missing partner, Janks, who has disappeared, leaving her and their daughter, Jewelee, to fend for themselves. From the outset, Other Houses is grounded in Melbourne: from the suburban streets that Lily traverses late at night to escape her trauma to the highways that Janks drives along on a doomed mission as a ‘courier of misery’. Suburbs with names reminiscent of big American cities like Dallas have none of the glitz and glamour of their famous namesakes; they are steeped in substance abuse, poverty, and hopelessness.

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Lucky’s by Andrew Pippos

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November 2020, no. 426

In Andrew Pippos’s immersive and multi-layered début novel, Lucky’s, a tragic shooting that occurs in the last bastion of a Greek-Australian restaurant franchise becomes the fulcrum around which mental health, heartbreak, displacement, and toxic masculinity are explored.

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The Coconut Children is an assured début from nineteen-year-old novelist Vivian Pham, who has drawn upon the richness of Sydney’s south-western suburbs to construct a deeply affecting coming-of-age story revolving around teenager Sonny. Pham’s language is melodramatic at times. With bold flourishes she expertly captures the internal monologue of a teenage girl navigating the everyday travails of being a young woman – schoolyard crushes and the ‘violent ammunition of her love thoughts’, an ever-changing body, and a burgeoning sexual awakening – alongside the darker undercurrents present within Sonny’s family and her wider community: sexual abuse, domestic violence, intergenerational trauma, addiction, and poverty.

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Yumna Kassab has utilised the sparse economy of short stories to craft her début collection, grounding universal diasporic themes such as generational disconnect, cultural loss, and the weight of familial expectations in the distinct Lebanese-Australian social milieu of western Sydney, where she was born and raised.

Short story collections often lack a certain cohesiveness, but Kassab’s characters each move in the same fictional yet exceedingly real world where Muslim Australians – straddling the line between being hyper-visible and invisible – are both demonised and studiously avoided. Characters with the same names recur from time to time, not always the same characters; reading Kassab’s stories requires a meticulous attention to detail to deconstruct and decipher how various individuals relate to one another.

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The minutiae and messiness of family life as it comes together and unravels time and time again are delicately rendered in Tracy Farr’s second novel, The Hope Fault. The unrelenting rain that forms the lugubrious backdrop for much of the novel conjures up the same rich, atmospheric setting of the late Georgia Blain’s

Set against the milieu of India’s recent emancipation from British rule and the indelible scars left by the country’s 1947 partition with Pakistan, Black British subverts the ...

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A multi-generational saga straddling numerous countries and political régimes, Leila Yusaf Chung’s first novel, Chasing Shadows, largely alternates between middle child Ajamia’s viewpoint and her father Abu Fadi’s memories, thus giving an evocative portrait of Middle Eastern life in the late nineteenth century. Abu, a middle-aged Polish-Jewish man, fled his barren marriage in Łódź for British Palestine, where he subsequently converted to Islam and married Keira, a carefree Palestinian girl of only thirteen. Months later, the Jewish state of Israel was created, and the subsequent disarray seeped into Abu Fadi and Keira’s marriage, irrevocably changing their lives.

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