Wednesday, June 20, 2018

The Shepherd's Hut

The Shepherd's Hut by Tim Winton
Farrar, Straus and Giroux: 6/19/18
eBook review copy; 288 pages
ISBN-13: 9780374262327

The Shepherd's Hut by Tim Winton is a highly recommended novel that is emotional, disturbing, and brutal but eloquently written.

Jaxie Clackton, 15, a physically and emotionally abused young man flees the small town where he lives after seeing his father’s accidental death. Jaxie takes a small amount of food, a rifle and a water jug and then starts out on foot through the back county of Western Australia, setting a course toward where his cousin Lee lives. He loves her and thinks they can escape somewhere together after he hides out for a while. After hiking for days, starving and thirsty, he comes to an abandoned cabin where he takes shelter. When exploring one day, hoping for water, he sees a shepherd's hut and meets exiled priest Fintan MacGillis. Jaxie must decide if he can trust MacGillis. The two eventually forge an unlikely bond until Jaxie discovers something nearby that could threaten the safety of both of them.

This is Jaxie's first person account and Winton writes in Jaxie's vernacular, slang and all which might throw some readers for a loop. Most of the words you will be able to figure out through the usage.  As he talks about his father's cruelty and the beatings and then his acting out, your heart will break - and then you'll wonder why the neighbors in the small town didn't take action. It will physically hurt when he talks about his mom, who passed away from cancer, and her not leaving her husband despite the beatings... and Jaxie puzzles out why she stayed. Jaxie thinks he is tough, has acted out, because he's had to be tough.

Winton's ability to portray Jaxie and MacGillis is absolutely amazing. The writing is impressive and eloquent. The story is troubling, full of pain and suffering. This is a story of damaged people respecting each other's secrets and trying to form a very unlikely friendship. For those who need to know, there is blood. There is catching and butchering animals. There is swearing and bad grammar as this is Jaxie's voice. These are two social outcasts working together. It is the story of a boy becoming a man.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

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