2016 Reviews · Australian · rural ficition

Book review: Journey’s End by Jennifer Scoullar

journey's endBook blurb:

From the author of Currawong Creek and Turtle Reef comes a beautiful story of family, friendship and the healing power of love.

When Sydney botanist Kim Sullivan and her husband inherit Journey’s End, a rundown farm high on the Great Eastern Escarpment, they dream of one day restoring it to its natural state. Ten years later, however, Kim is tragically widowed. Selling up is the only practical option, so she and her children head to the mountains to organise the sale. The last thing Kim expects is for Journey’s End to cast its wild spell on them all.

The family decide to stay, and Kim forges on with plans to rewild the property, propagating plants and acquiring a menagerie of native animals. But wayward wildlife, hostile farmers and her own lingering grief make the task seem hopeless. That is, until she meets the mysterious Taj, a man who has a way with animals. Kim begins to feel that she might find love again. But Taj has his own tragic past – one that could drive a wedge between them that can not be overcome . . .

4.5 stars

Having read all of Jennifer Scoullar’s novels to date, I welcomed the opportunity to travel through the pages of her latest novel, Journey’s End. I firmly believe Jennifer Scoullar is a leading author in the field of Australian rural fiction. Scoullar’s novels are slight departure from those in the same genre, she is able to weave her unique passion for the environment into her rural fiction narratives. Journey’s End is another fantastic book by Jennifer Scoullar, incorporating the themes of love, emotional repair, friendship and family, all under a stunning Australian backdrop.

Journey’s End starts with a pretty emotional prologue – have the tissues at the ready! Kim Sullivan, mother of two, is looking forward to her husband Connor returning home after a tour of Afghanistan, where he has been serving in the Army. Kim’s hopes are shattered when she receives the terrible news that Connor was killed. Kim and her two children are completely consumed by grief, especially when a beloved family pet also leaves their lives. Two years later, Kim feels it is time for the family to have some time away, so she takes them to Journey’s End, a property her husband inherited some years ago. Situated near the isolated small town of Tingo in country NSW, Journey’s End is a rambling farm surrounded by breathtaking landscape. With plans to stay only a short time at Journey’s End to fix up the rundown property in preparation for sale, Kim and her children soon find they have grown deeply attached to Journey’s End. The Sullivans make the decision to stay put at Journey’s End, where Kim begins to move past her grief as she repairs the property. The family soon finds their lives touched by various Tingo locals, building strong friendships but also gaining enemies from local farmers who disagree with Kim’s attempts at rewilding her property. When the local handyman Taj enters the Sullivan’s lives, a chance at love and forgiveness seems possible, but Taj is a man with a shadowy past.

Journey’s End was a novel that surprised me with how deeply it was able to impact on me emotionally. The moving prologue, whereby the main character of Kim receives the devastating news her husband is not returning from his tour of Afghanistan, was utterly heartbreaking. So too were the chapters that followed, as the family struggles to come to terms with their grief. I felt so much for Kim and her son Jake in particular, as his grief takes over all aspects of his life. I applauded Kim when she decided to take the family away from their current living arrangements to Journey’s End. I adored the location of Tingo completely and I felt it was an excellent setting choice by Scoullar. Jennifer Scoullar’s descriptions of her locale, the mountains of country NSW, are rich in detail. I love how Scoullar adds in her passion and understanding of Australia’s flora and fauna to her narrative. Journey’s End is no exception, as she includes animals not covered in her previous books but also adds some favourites. I especially enjoyed the sections where brumbies and dingoes were featured.

Characters are a well formed in Journey’s End, Kim and her family are both very easy to relate and sympathise with. The country folk of Tingo are realistic and have some very good back stories. Ben and Taj are characters which stood out to me as intrinsically interesting .There is a touch of romance in Journey’s End that it is dusted with a light flavour only, but it seemed completely fitting for this book. Kim’s personal journey through the stages of her grief and her pursuits as a botanist in her new home of Journey’s End, definitely made this book such a joy to read from the start to the close of the book.

To read Journey’s End is to be rewarded with many rich layers. It is a story about love, loss, grief and finding the strength to move on. Journey’s End is unafraid to tackle some heavier issues such as prejudice, small town life problems, building relationships, wildlife care and alternative land regeneration techniques The most touching part of Journey’s End , besides the endearing characters and well plotted narrative, is the setting. Journey’s End also offers a very good picture of life in the mountain regions of country NSW and although I am unfamiliar with terrain, Scoullar opened my eyes to a truly majestic part of Australia.

Journey’s End was published in 2016 by Penguin Books Australia https://www.penguin.com.au/products/9781760141516/dingo-downs-wt-z

 

 

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