Title: Home At Last
Author: Meredith Appleyard
Published: March 18th 2019
Publisher: Mira – AU
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary, Romance
Rating: 4 stars
Flying solo can be harder than it looks … A warm-hearted rural romance about finding your way home.
Flying solo for the first time had been the greatest high of Anna Kelly’s life. So when the chance of a dream job as a pilot with the Royal Flying Doctor Service comes up she takes it, even though she has to leave her home in Adelaide and move to remote Broken Hill – a place she had hoped she would never see again.
The bad memories the town provokes remind Anna why she keeps men at arm’s length but as her work proves fulfilling, her housemate becomes a friend and a warm community grows around her, Anna is surprised to discover that Broken Hill is starting to feel like home.
But there is no such thing as plain sailing and with errant mothers, vengeful ex-patients and determined exes on the prowl, life is becoming increasingly complicated. More than that, the distractingly attractive Flight Nurse Nick Harrison seems keen to get to know her better, and he has a way of finding a path through her defences. But will he still want her if the truth comes out?
‘Returning to Broken Hill in March for work had been one of life’s little ironies.’
A tender medical romance that explores family relations, remote living, secrets and the search for independence is at the heart of Meredith Appleyard’s latest piece of fiction. Home At Last is an earnest and engaging tale, that highlights the vast challenges faced by those who live, work and sacrifice so much to keep outback communities thriving.
This is an extra special review for me to write. Unknowingly, I settled down to read the latest novel by an author I greatly admire, Meredith Appleyard, and I came across a cover quote from a previous review I had written of one of Meredith Appleyeard’s books. This discovery gave me a big boost and I went into Home At Last with gusto. I was definitely rewarded with a solid read.
Meredith Appleyard presents a number of matters of interest in her latest piece of contemporary Australian fiction. She has her finger on the pulse, drawing our attention to a myriad of issues that are not only relevant to remote communities, but Australia wide. On the medical front she highlights the distance, vastness, pressure on employees, lack of resources and support in remote townships relying on essential medical services. Appleyard also provides an excellent snapshot of the day to day life of a Royal Flying Doctor Service pilot, as well as medical care staff, which I appreciated very much.
‘It is the downside of this type of health care. In a hospital help is never far away. It brought home again how there’s only so much one person can do when you’re miles and hours from getting any help.’
On a universal front, Appleyard tackles homelessness, aged care, economic disadvantage, mental illness, post natal depression, suicide, single parenthood, separation and relationship issues. Each of these areas are touched with plenty of care, thought and insight. Thanks to the author’s first hand experiences in the field of medical care in rural areas, the scenarios that arise in Home At Last feel realistic and authentic.
The characters of Home At Last form the very backbone of this story and I appreciated the way they were presented by Appleyard. I took an immediate liking to Anna. I sympathised with her issues and I admired Anna’s willingness to make a go of her new position, despite her reservations and setbacks. I did like the hero of the tale, Nick. I felt plenty of empathy for him too. The family problems Nick has, his money, housing issues and his approach to his career did reach into my soul. To create characters that the reader feels genuine care and concern for is half your battle as a writer. I feel that Meredith Appleyard should be pleased with the way in which her characters transfer from the page to the reader.
I loved the rural setting of this novel, I think that this area of the novel works so well. I am yet to make a trip to Broken Hill, it is a good distance from my home in Western Australia. However, thanks to Appleyard’s strong descriptive prose, I was easily able to visualise this remote township and I got a very good feel for the composition of the local community.
‘By midday they were travelling to historic Silverton, twenty five kilometres from Broken Hill, through the arid landscape of the western Barrier Ranges. The road was sealed but narrow and undulating. They spotted wild horses and emus among the mulga scrub and saltbush.’
There are clearly plenty of challenges and issues to overcome when living in remote parts of Australia, but in banding together and showing a commitment to the making the best of things, a tiny community can thrive. I enjoyed being part of the embracing fold of Broken Hill for the time I spent with the cast of Home At Last.
Appleyard’s approach to romance is just the kind I enjoy. It is slow and steady, defined by plenty of personal issues, individual hang-ups and fears of the future. Anna and Nick’s journey touched me. I liked the way in which Meredith Appleyard balanced their love story out within the confines of the wider matters that were at stake in the local community. These situations definitely tugged at my heartstrings and increased my compassion for the two leads. I was very comfortable with the final culmination of events of this tale and I enjoyed seeing where Appleyard was going to settle her leads.
Home At Last is a book that considers matters of the heart within the context of family, subsistence, personal aspirations and love. The ideal read for contemporary Australian fictions fans, who appreciate a touch of medical fiction and romance added to the blend.
Home At Last by Meredith Appleyard was published on 18th March 2019 by Mira – AU. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
To learn more about the author of Home At Last, Meredith Appleyard, visit here.
*I wish to thank Harper Collins Books Australia for providing me with a free copy of this book for review purposes.
Home At Last is book #70 of the 2019 Australian Women Writers Challenge