SWEENEY, Diana The Minnow Text Pub, 2014 263pp A$19.99 NZ$26.00 pbk ISBN 9781922182012 SCIS 1660643
Tom has lost her family in a flood that has devastated her little town. As her community tries to heal, its citizens do the best they can to support each other. It’s seen as a kind gesture when Bill takes in Tom but his eventual abuse of her reveals a dark side that frightens Tom. Now pregnant, she moves in with her gentle friend Jonah. With support from Jonah and his grandfather, her spry and loving Nana in residential care, and even the concerned local policeman, Tom is able to grow as The Minnow grows within her. Mother and daughter are bonded by language and emotion that enables them to converse, in a similar way to which Tom talks to her dead Papa and a fish called Oscar. She is able to ‘see’ her dead sister and, poignantly and finally, her. The death of her Nana at the end of the book seems almost too much but it’s The Minnow that gives life to Tom by providing her with love and a future.
Tom is a character who will burrow into your heart and make you forever wonder about her. The symbiotic mother-baby love, her spiritual connections with family and animals, gives her an unusual strength in the face of her many tragedies and despite a sweet naivety. This is a sophisticated book, with disturbing themes and an underpinning sense of sadness, but readers should find themselves changed for knowing Tom. Highly recommended.
reviewed by Pam Harvey