Title: Kick the Dust
Author: Rhonda Forrest
Published: October 15th 2019
Publisher: Valeena Press
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary, Romance
Rating: 4 stars
‘If I close my eyes, it’s easier to hold onto a memory. When I open them, I think it might really be there in front of me.’
After three tours of duty in Afghanistan, Liam Andrews is home safe in Queensland. His weekly life drawing class, full of colourful local artists, helps him manage his post-traumatic stress disorder. But he’s struggling to open up about a past that still haunts him.
Belourine ‘Billy’ is an Afghan refugee who lost everything before arriving in Australia as a child. She finds joy in her daily swims in the lake. After years of upheaval, she’s still searching for a place to call home. But her past makes it hard to trust people.
When Liam and Billy meet, they form an instant connection. But will they ever overcome the past? And will it be together?
A moving story of love, loss and resilience from the author of Two Heartbeats.
Kick the Dust is the fourth novel from Australian author Rhonda Forrest, who has also released books under the name Lea Davey. In this latest Rhonda Forrest title, we are confronted with issues of trauma, PTSD, racism, acceptance, connections, friendship and love. Kick the Dust is a moving and tender hearted novel from a generous storyteller.
Kick the Dust follows the story of Liam Andrews, a soldier who completed a number of tours of Afghanistan before returning home to Queensland. Disturbed by the scenes of war and trauma he has witnessed during his time in Afghanistan, Liam now fills his days with peaceful pursuits such as painting and swimming. However, Liam still faces an everyday battle to keep his thoughts in check. Liam’s life changes when he is acquainted with a woman named Billy, who came to Australia as a young girl, after fleeing her dangerous home in Afghanistan. Billy is a woman haunted by her past and her daily swims provide her with the solace and grounding she needs to face each day. Billy still feels disconnected from the world, despite the safety her life in Australia provides. With Billy’s inability to place her faith in anyone, she faces the prospect of a lonely future. However, when Liam enters her world, Billy begins to see things from a different perspective. Can these two broken souls support one another?
My copy of Kick the Dust arrived with a heartfelt personal letter from the author, providing me with a little more background information on the inspiration for this novel. Rhonda Forrest revealed in a personal handwritten note that her fourth novel was inspired by some students she taught in 2015. Having also taught a number of english as a second language and students with a refugee background myself over the years, I could sympathise. I could also see how these amazing students and their stories could spurn a story or two.
Kick the Dust features two lead characters that will be sure to earn a place in your heart. I had a great deal of respect and empathy for both Liam and Billy. These were two vastly different characters, but they both shared some common ground. It took me a little longer to let Billy into my heart, she seemed quite distanced for the bulk of the novel. Liam is also a man of mystery, but we come to understand why Liam is guarded as the story progresses. These are two very authentic and heartwarming characters. Forrest does a good job of illuminating their past, trauma, fears and trust issues. The style of narration allows us to access their inner thoughts and feelings. At times these thoughts and experiences were hard to process, but Forrest treats these issues with sensitivity and compassion.
Much of Liam’s current existence in the book is devoted to his art work, paintings and drawings. Forrest offered an excellent window into the world of an artist and the process of art therapy. I found these sections of the narrative fascinating. The scenes based in the studio really gave to reader a solid and vivid insight into the creativity involved in drawing and painting. It really is a different way of viewing the world around you and I found this to be a very interesting portion of the novel. Billy, the female lead, uses swimming as a form of therapy to help her make peace with her past. I could understand Billy’s response and I came to see just how valuable water is as a natural form of therapy to help heal the wounds of trauma. Liam and Billy are two tormented souls, so the reader naturally wants the two of them to connect and recover.
There is a really gentle romance that flows through Kick the Dust. It is an understated love story, but it still tugs at the heartstrings. This love story is dominated by trust issues and overcoming fear. If you appreciate a clean, sweet, natural progression style contemporary romance, this one will be sure to hit the spot.
Forrest willingly tackles a number of heady issues within Kick the Dust. The reader is privy to the world of trauma, loss, war experiences, PTSD, relationship breakdown, personal insecurity, family pressures, displacement and culture divides. Forrest pits her characters, both primary and secondary, against these real world problems. The cast emerge with core values of courage, acceptance, endurance and appreciation.
An uplifting and stirring contemporary fiction title, Kick the Dust is a book that touches on differences in society and how these can be overcome when we reach out and make genuine connections.
Kick the Dust by Rhonda Forrest was published on 15th October 2019 by Valeena Press. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
To learn more about the author of Kick the Dust, Rhonda Forrest, visit here.
*With thanks to the author, Rhonda Forrest, for providing me with a copy of this novel, in exchange for an honest review.
Kick the Dust is book #87 of the 2020 Australian Women Writers Challenge