#aww2021 · 2021 Reviews · Australian · contemporary fiction · new release

New Release Book Review: Welcome to Nowhere River by Meg Bignell

Title: Welcome to Nowhere River

Author: Meg Bignell

Published: March 2nd 2021

Publisher: Penguin Books Australia

Pages: 400

Genres: Fiction, Contemporary

RRP: $32.99

Rating: 4 stars

The highly original and heartfelt new novel from the author of The Sparkle Pages.

Long past its heyday and deep in drought, the riverside hamlet of Nowhere River is slowly fading into a ghost town. It’s a place populated by those who are beholden to it, those who were born to it and those who took a wrong turn while trying to go somewhere else.

City-born Carra married into Nowhere River, Lucie was brought to it by tragedy, Josie is root-bound and Florence knows nowhere else. All of them, though familiar with every inch of their tiny hometown, are as lost as the place itself.

The town’s social cornerstone — St Margery’s Ladies’ Club — launches a rescue plan that turns everything around and upside down, then shakes it until all sorts of things come floating to the surface. And none of its inhabitants will ever be the same again.

This is the highly original and heartfelt story of a place where everybody knows everything, but no one really knows anyone at all. Brimming with heart and humour, this is a delightful novel that celebrates the country people and towns of Australia.

Review:

Welcome to Nowhere River is a book that oozes with community spirit, togetherness, kindness, acceptance and restoration. Set in the small fictional Tasmanian town of Nowhere River, Meg Bignell’s second novel traces the lives and general happenings of the folk that live in this quaint Australian locale. Embracing and comforting, Welcome to Nowhere River is a book that holds universal appeal.

The forgotten little township of Nowhere River is a place that has been struck by a huge downtown in its population and economy due to drought. The impact is felt deep by the residents of Nowhere River. While the residents of this gentle township are determined to save their beautiful riverside community, they don’t know what the future holds. As the story progresses the reader is acquainted with many long standing community members of Nowhere River and those who have come to the township for alternative reasons. But many of the residents of Nowhere River have broken dreams and unfulfilled goals and as the town grows stale so do they. However, the Nowhere River township are determined to ensure that their community stays afloat. In response, the people of Nowhere River devise a scheme to save they beloved town, but in putting this plan into place it will test this little community in unimaginable ways. In a place where everyone is aware of each other’s issues, the people of Nowhere River will learn even more about their neighbours in this touching tribute to Australian small-town communities.

Marta Dusseldorp, one of my favourite Australian actresses has endorsed Meg Bignell’s second contemporary fiction release, Welcome to Nowhere River. This celebrity backing enticed me to read Meg Bignell’s new novel even more after I fell in love with the stunning cover. I loved the strong Australian feel cover which is adorned with eyecatching local fauna and flora. The cover design certainly seduced me into pushing this one to the top of my review pile.

I enjoyed the structure of Welcome to Nowhere River, it was quite unique. Each chapter is carefully closed off with an enlightening interview with a significant member of the Nowhere River community. I looked forward to seeing who I would meet and what their respective life story in connection to Nowhere River would be as each chapter reached its climax. I think this was a special touch that made Welcome to Nowhere River a one of a kind novel in my eyes. We also follow a number of keynote characters and their backgrounds vary in terms of life experiences, tragedies and setbacks. There is a strong feeling of nostalgia, regret and lost dreams to this story, but there also sense of resolve that follows the cast of Meg Bignell’s novel. The characters are a great bunch to get to know and I did feel a sense of empathy for many of them, along with their situations. Meg Bignell adds plenty of realism and understanding to her protagonists which helps to make this book a very easygoing read. The balance of hard issues with humour also ensures that the reader feels completely at home with this novel for the duration.

For me the winning element of Welcome to Nowhere River was the quintessential Aussie setting base. I have a keen interest in anything set in Tasmania – I truly love the place, so any opportunity to visit this wonderful part of our country via the pages of an engaging novel really worked for me. The vivid impressions provided by the author, thanks to her location based prose allowed me to picture Nowhere River perfectly. I also felt that the sense of community was captured well by Meg Bignell. This is a real ‘we are all in this together’ style novel and I could hear the words of this moving song playing in my head throughout! It was humbling to see this community pitch their ideas and resources together to salvage their beloved town. Welcome to Nowhere River is a book that inspires a strong sense of civic duty and responsibility, which is a great direction for a novel. The touching epilogue was absolutely fitting too.

It was a pleasurable experience to be in the company of the folk of Nowhere River, thanks to Meg Bignell’s new novel. Welcome to Nowhere River is a story that reminds us of the importance of dreaming big, laughing as much as you can and reaching out to connect with your community fold.

Welcome to Nowhere River by Meg Bignell was published on 2nd March 2021 by Penguin Books Australia. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.

To learn more about the author of Welcome to Nowhere River, Meg Bignell, visit here.

*I wish to thank Penguin Books Australia for providing me with a free copy of this book for review purposes.

Welcome to Nowhere River is book #19 of the 2021 Australian Women Writers Challenge

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