Title: Trails in the Dust
Author: Joy Dettman
Published: June 25th 2019
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary, Saga
Rating: 4 stars
After many tumultuous years spent grappling with the past, Jenny Hooper might have expected her latter years to be the best of her life, and they are – until tragedy strikes. Left floundering in a house full of memories, not all of them good, Jenny knows a reckoning is in order.
But it won’t be easy. History is beginning to repeat itself for Jenny’s adopted daughter, Trudy, who finds herself trapped in an abusive relationship. Jenny and her older daughter, Georgie, can only stand by and watch as Trudy’s life implodes.
Meanwhile, half a world away in the UK, Cara and her husband Morrie nurture a devastating secret that keeps them at arm’s length from Jenny.
But most of all, Jenny wants to renew contact with the beloved son she lost decades before when she was at her lowest ebb. Only that, and having the chance to tell him the truth about what happened, will give her peace. But is it too late?
Trails in the Dust is the seventh and final chapter of the Woody Creek series. Penned by much loved storyteller Joy Dettman, Trails in the Dust is a quintessential Australian novel and an all encompassing tale of family, love, secrets and reconciling the past with the present. With a strong focus on character, Dettman closes her popular and enduring Woody Creek series with the full treatment it deserves.
In Joy Dettman’s final instalment of the Woody Creek series, the past comes back to haunt Jenny Hooper, a woman entering her twilight years. After decades of upheaval, Jenny hopes that her last years will present her with less strain than she has previously encountered. However, it seems life will deal Jenny with another blow to contend with. As Jenny copes with yet another tragedy, her family are also facing their own issues. With one daughter caught up in an abusive relationship, Jenny can only watch on in frustration. Ripples also occur in the lives of those who are intertwined with Jenny, on the other side of the world. But, for Jenny Hooper, one final act of courage must be made at this late stage of her life. Jenny needs to reconnect with her lost child, finally unveiling the truth and making up for past mistakes. But time is clearly ticking away for Jenny.
I am sure for loyal followers of the Woody Creek series, which began with the book Pearl in a Cage, this pivotal conclusion to the popular long running series has been eagerly awaited. On the very first page of Trails in the Dust, Joy Dettman states “she owed herself and her readers a more satisfying end to her epic tale”. With a deep commitment on behalf of the author to send her beloved Woody Creek series off in the best means possible, I am confident followers of this epic saga will be more than satisfied with Trails in the Dust. For newcomers, I do suggest picking up the previous novels in this series, as it will enhance your reading experience of Trails in the Dust.
Trails in the Dust largely revolves around Jenny Hooper, a defining character in Dettman’s well received series. The story also dips in and out of the interesting lives of other key players, aided by Dettman’s strong characterisation skills. Trails in the Dust is divided into three engrossing parts, with an intriguing prologue and a conclusive epilogue. Trails in the Dust and all the accompanying books in this series are well written, engaging, highly readable and rich in Australian small town flavour.
Trails in the Dust chronicles the past, present and future of Jenny Hooper, her offspring and the townsfolk of Woody Creek. It is a somewhat meandering, but colourful tale, with plenty of accompanying plot twists, turns and surprising moments. The small town setting base of Woody Creek is depicted with a great deal of clarity by Dettman and I would have to say this is my favourite aspect of the book. There are plenty of themes that the author dishes out as the story unfolds, from loss, grief, regret, secrets, the past, ill fated decisions, reconciliation, relationships and ageing, all of which are tinged with a sense of nostalgia. Much like the ups and downs we experience in life, Dettman takes a critical glance at how our lives are shaped by decisions, difficult acts, secrets and often feelings of regret. At many times I felt the brevity of the acts committed by the characters in this novel and the strong emotional pull of this tale. As I have followed this series from the start, I did feel a sense of sadness when it came to say goodbye. However, as I have enjoyed other standalone works by the author, I am sure Joy Dettman has something exciting and new in the pipeline.
Dettman has paid the ultimate tribute to Woody Creek series by releasing Trails in the Dust, which wraps up this acclaimed Australian series well. The publication of the seventh and last chapter in this saga may work to incite new interest in the Woody Creek series as a whole and Joy Dettman’s extensive backlist.
Trails in the Dust was published on 25th June 2019 by Pan Macmillan. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
*Thanks extended to Pan Macmillan for providing a free copy of this book for review purposes.
Trails in the Dust is book #94 of the 2019 Australian Women Writers Challenge