Author: Kathryn Hind
Published: June 4th 2019
Publisher: Penguin Books Australia
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary
Rating: 4 stars
Winner of the inaugural Penguin Literary Prize.
Amelia stands beside a highway in the Australian desert, alone except for her dog and the occasional road train that speeds past her raised thumb.
After her mother’s funeral, Amelia was confronted by Zach and reminded of the relationship they had when she was a teenager. She feels complicit and remains unable to process what happened. So she ran. Her best friend, Sid, is Zach’s cousin and the one person in the world she can depend upon.
But, of course, the road isn’t safe either. Amelia is looking for generosity or human connection in the drivers she finds lifts with, and she does receive that. But she is also let down.
Hitch is a raw exploration of consent and its ambiguities, personal agency and the choices we make. It’s the story of twenty-something Amelia and her dog Lucy hitchhiking from one end of the country to the other, trying to outrun grief and trauma, and moving ever closer to the things she longs to escape.
Kathryn Hind, winner of the inaugural Penguin Literary Prize, writes with acuity, empathy and wisdom. She is a shining new light on the Australian literary scene.
Canberra based author Kathryn Hind’s first novel, Hitch, is a book about life, loss, grief, forgiveness, reconciling the past and the present, with an overarching theme of trauma. It is an accessible piece of Australian literary fiction that captured my full attention.
Hitch involves Amelia’s journey across one of Australia’s most isolated stretches of highway, as she treks from the NT to Melbourne, in an effort to escape the loss of her mother, as well as a past trauma. Amelia’s companion is her loyal dog Lucy. While embarking upon this perilous journey, Amelia is confronted with the harsh reality of her past. This open wound, left by an encounter Amelia recently had with her ex at her mother’s funeral, has compelled her to run. Amelia soon realises she cannot escape the past, no matter how hard she tries. In a bid to connect with the one person who may understand her predicament, her best friend Sid, Amelia takes on this emotionally fraught and ultimately hazardous crossing. Along the way she finds a deep contrast in humanity as she deals with her past.
Hitch is a salient debut novel from Kathryn Hind, an experienced writer across a range of mediums. Hitch is a contemporary life based novel that provides a carefully refined and engrossing look at a young woman confronting the trauma of her life, while embarking on a move across the country. The layout of this book is like a stream of consciousness, it is told completely through the lead character’s point of view. As a result, Hitch has no chapter breaks and it took awhile for me to settle into this mode of storytelling. However, Hitch provided to be a fascinating read, as I tried to understand the mystery of why a young woman would put herself through such an ordeal. The unfolding narrative is complex and problematic, but also warranted.
I can’t say I have ever had the urge, or have been in the desperate position to consider the act of hitchhiking, which the main character undertakes in Hitch. It is dangerous and risky. Immediately I conjured up a number of different horror stories in my mind. But Amelia’s specific journey highlights both sides of the coin. There were the generous and safe souls that desperately wanted to save Amelia, they were genuinely worried about her wellbeing. Then there those on the opposite side of the spectrum, the dangerous figures that take advantage of Amelia in her dire situation. The fear factor is high and maintained through the bulk of this novel. I appreciated this aspect of Hitch.
The isolation and expanse of the location that Amelia must navigate is relayed very well by Hind. It is hard to believe when reading these setting based sequences that Hind has just this book under her belt. The prose is measured and Hind manages to say so much within just a small space. This takes skill as a writer and I was impressed by Hind’s technique.
Another area that I feel was particularly strong in Hitch was the representation of character. This begins with the vivid expression of Amelia, through to the secondary characters and figures Amelia encounters on her journey. At all times we gain an impression of these people through Amelia’s damaged eyes. Lucy, Amelia’s canine companion for her journey, is also portrayed extremely well on the pages of this novel. There was a strong page presence to all of the characters in this novel. I could also see this book playing well on the screen in the future.
Amelia is consumed by her tragic past, the trauma she has experienced and the recent loss of her mother, which compounds all her pain together. Amelia’s memories appear like little fragments on the page and the reader must work at hard trying to piece them together. Often Amelia’s recollections were not crystal clear, so I felt like it was down to the reader to play an active role in joining the dots together. I think I may have made a few assumptions, but I concluded that this is perhaps what the author intended. I did feel a great deal of regret and sadness for Amelia. I also pondered on the plight of those who take their life into their own hands when they hitch-hike, it really is a gamble.
Hitch is a novel that contains some strong observations about life and how we deal with the damage that we may be issued with. It is about loneliness, connections, grief and dependence. This is an impressive novel from an emerging author who clearly has a promising career ahead.
Hitch by Kathryn Hind was published on 4th June 2019 by Penguin Books Australia. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
*I wish to thank Penguin Books Australia for providing me with a free copy of this book for review purposes.
Hitch is book #85 of the 2019 Australian Women Writers Challenge