The Liminal Space – Jacquie McRae (Huia, $25.00)
Reviewed by Louise Ward
The village of Radley is a place where everyone knows one another, people gossip, friends and neighbours look out for one another and your business is never completely your own. It's peopled by us, our neighbours, the faces we see passing by.
William is the village eccentric: he lives alone, has visitors to his shed, skinny dips in the river, has long, raggedy hair. He notices when mothers pull their children away from him but chooses not to judge. He has a secret ache, and an ability to feel the pain of others. With this gift he notices what others miss, and puts things in place to enable change.
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William is also the centre point about which the other characters in the story pivot.
Emily is young, unworldly, married to a man who turned out to be other than the person he had presented himself to be. Terrible things happen to Emily and people know, but it takes a while for her to open herself to their concern, and to see herself for who she is and has the potential to be.
Young James heads off to university, trying desperately to fit in and please his demanding father. Having been set up to fail, he arrives home in Radley and flounders. A meeting with William (and his soulful dog, Juno) could change the path James has decided upon.
Marco is in love with the idea of wealth and power. Having grown up next door to William he finds himself back home from the big smoke, trying to come up with the next get rich plan. It is remarkable how superficially odious Marco is, and how much his father and William love and accept him, finding the good in him, gently showing him another way.
These characters find themselves in a liminal space, a place of fear, uncertainty, change and, ultimately hope. It is William in his quiet, gentle way, prescribing books and taking time to listen, that will get them through this space as he also prepares to journey.
I loved this book. It is written with a simplicity of tone and a grace that made me think of the people within its pages in between readings. There is a purity and goodness to it, even in the midst of some awful life events, an acceptance of humanity's frailty that is heartening. It's a gem.