December 10

The Choke by Sofie Laguna

It’s the early 1970’s and a ten-year-old girl is slipping through the cracks.

Abandoned by her mother and neglected by her father, she is forced to live with her alcoholic grandfather in a broken-down property near the banks of the Murray River. Surrounded by men, guns and beer – this young girl is far from safe.

It’s hard to read with your eyes shut, but that’s exactly what I wanted to do for much of this book. Every chapter introduced another character that could have/should have helped and it was impossible to predict how it was all going to end.  It isn’t an exaggeration to say that I was willing each new character to just do something in order to change the awful trajectory taking shape page by page.

The Choke definitely takes out my “Gone Girl” award in 2017 for the longest period of well-timed suspense.

Talking of awards, author Sofie Laguna has won a few, including the Miles Franklin for earlier novel “The Eye of the Sheep”. Like that one, The Choke is a cracking story written in a truly Australian landscape involving wet dirt, muddy water, kookaburras and heat. The small-town isolation and cycle of poverty add another Australian dimension and hard truths about times we’d rather forget.

I loved this book for the story alone. Yes I also loved the language, the landscape and the metaphors, but it was the simple, heartbreaking tale that did it for me with The Choke.

And that’s my 2 cents worth.