By Sue Younger
The third page of Days Are Like Grass ends with six ominous words: Just like that. Your life, ruined. The sense of foreboding lingers long after those words, dated 1970, have given way to scenes set in the more recent past (2010). On that ill-fated day in 1970, in fact one life was ruined and another, that of baby Claire Bowerman, blighted for the next forty years.
By 2010 Claire is a skilled paediatric surgeon, recently returned to Auckland after many years in England. Claire has returned reluctantly to New Zealand. Although the tragedies in her past still haunt her, outwardly she is tough and in control, and neither she nor her partner, Yossi, and least of all Claire’s daughter, 15-year-old Roimata, are prepared for the way the cloak of protective secrecy with which Claire has guarded her life begins to unravel. When a patient’s aunt recognises in Roimata a link to her own extended family, Claire feels her life spiralling out of control. The fierce love that binds Claire, Yossi and Roimata is tested over and over again.
In Days Are Like Grass, Younger explores the intricacies of a dysfunctional family and its accompanying estrangement; unconditional love and love’s betrayal; denial, forgiveness and reconciliation. There is all this, along with terrible grief and amazing joy in Days Are Like Grass, and more. Claire’s family drama is set against her work in Starship Children’s Hospital where there is also suspense, sorrow and inspiration.
Younger has woven an incredible web in the plot and subplots of Days Are Like Grass. With astounding skill, she keeps pulling the threads tighter and drawing the reader deeper and deeper into the dramas and traumas in Claire’s life. This book is beautifully written. The prose is succinct and punchy – there is no extra padding: like Claire herself, the story is crisp and fast-paced. Although those opening pages were never far from my mind, the mystery wasn’t completely solved, in a totally unexpected way, until the very last pages. So no peeping! I was also impressed with the way Younger so cleverly used the second person singular to tell key parts of this story.
I found Days Are Like Grass a truly gripping read. Aucklanders will enjoy the vividly described scenes – some seedy, others gorgeously luxuriant – but this book will delight lovers of the mystery-plus-family-in-crisis genre all over the world. For non-Kiwi readers, a useful glossary of Maori words completes the book.
Carolyn McKenzie is a writer, freelance proofreader, copy editor, and translator from Italian to English.
She kindly offers accommodation at reasonable rates for FlaxFlower writers in Thames (Waikato)
and Ventimiglia Alta (Liguria, Italy). email@example.com
Author: Sue Younger
Publisher: Eunoia Publishing