CASTAGNA, Felicity The Incredible Here and Now Giramondo Pub, 2013 187pp $19.95 pbk ISBN 9781922146366 SCIS 1628580
‘Some people say ‘West’ like it is something wrong, like ice-cream that fell in a gutter.’ So opens 15 year old narrator Michael’s paean to his little patch in Parramatta. Michael is the son of immigrant proprietors of an electrical goods store. He and Shadi, his best friend, enjoy their after school job at Mohammed’s servo. Michael idolizes his big brother Dom, a gregarious, happy, 17 year old revhead. Life is wonderful … until Dom is killed in a hooning accident.
The tragedy deeply affects Michael’s family, especially his mother who withdraws into the shadows of her home and mind. But life must go on. Michael cherishes the memory of extravert Dom. Poppy, his widowed grandfather, steps in taking Dom’s place in his life. His brassy young Aunty Leena, a foil to his parents’ cultural inertia, inspires him with her zest for life. Michael comes to realize that the very community that made Dom the happy, popular boy that he was, will nurture him in the same way.
The Incredible Here and Now is an uplifting novel, a joy to read. Its eighty short chapters are a series of loosely connected vignettes delivered in the simple, unadorned, sometimes ungrammatical narration of Michael. It is utterly convincing in its observation of the place and the people of Michael’s life in the western suburbs. There is a palpable vitality that courses through the novel and leaves the reader with the sense that life is what you make of it, it’s there for the taking.
reviewed by Kevin Steinberger