January 15

Honeybee by Craig Silvey

One of the great things I guess about a new year shut-down across greater Sydney was I felt zero guilt laying in bed all day, listening to the rain, reading. I did it twice and I felt a million dollars. This sort of caper should be done more often I thought (New Years resolution #1).

I must say that even if the sun was shining & life was somewhat normal, I would still have stayed in bed for as long as it took to finish Honeybee. I could not – and did not want – to say goodbye and for it to end. I adored it.

‘Find out who you are and live that life‘ (oh hi, New Years resolution #2) are the words that frame this breathtaking read. I was stirred and shaken reading every page and my recent days – outside of bed you’ll be happy to know – have felt like I’m suffering a book hangover of sorts. I am glad it is over so I can resume my place in society but I cannot quite get over the great time we had together and I am rather addicted to Sam Waterson or Honeybee as he is known.

We meet fourteen year old Sam as he hangs onto the side of a large bridge waiting to jump late at night when something catches his eye as he holds on, waiting for the right moment. Vic, an old man, smokes his last cigarette at the other end of the bridge ready too to plunge into the abyss.

They both retreat from their death perches, surprised to see the other and they connect, bonded in suffering and as they help each other off the bridge each one commits privately to saving the other.

It is a dramatic and gut wrenching introduction and your heart will jump into your mouth and it will stay there till the last line. You will wince as you are catapulted into the world of petty crime, extortion plots, escapes and beatings. But all the while, in amongst all the yuk, you will be deeply moved by the compassion and tenderness of love and friendship between Sam and Vic and the simple, powerful beauty of acceptance. Vic sees Sam for exactly who he is and provides the freedom and safety for him to fully become and embrace it.

Oh darling Sam, you will adore him and you will want to climb in between the words and hold him. He has learnt to live in a world being disappointed and abandoned by his troubled mum, traumatised by a mean stepfather and downtrodden by a seedy underworld. But Vic opens a window for Sam to clamber through – and just the right wardrobe to dress up in as he climbs.

I have loved so many books of late but this one is already, one week into 2021, my pick for book of the year. It will take a mighty champion to dethrone it.

But that is just my 2 cents worth.