Katya Balen, The Light in Everything, Bloomsbury, July 2022, 272 pp., RRP $14.99 (pbk), ISBN 9781526647405
The cover and title can say a lot about a book. In his mindfully conceived cover illustration, Sydney Smith places the paper crane in the forefront of the image: it is a symbol of hope that lights up the narrative and finds its way into even the darkest cracks and corners of this beautifully written story about two eleven-year-old kids trying to navigate life’s ‘slings and arrows’.
If only they could make one thousand cranes, then everything would end up alright. That’s what Tom and Zofia feel anyway. But how can you make things alright when you have a raging storm of an only daughter with a single dad and a traumatised only son of a single mum, thrust together into a blended family, and a baby on the way? It’s a lot to contemplate isn’t it?
Told in the alternating voices of Zofia and Tom, The Light in Everything explores the intricacies and complexities of family relationships and how the protagonists navigate their way through darkness into the light, gaining greater insight into themselves and others along the way.
Set in an old cottage by the sea, Balen makes use of the forces of nature to capture aspects of her character’s personalities as well as a sense of renewal through the ever-changing seasons and ebb and flow of the tides. Her beautiful use of language paints pictures with the environment and its characters, allowing the reader to get beneath the skin of her young characters as they evolve and grow with the narrative.
A terrific read that will grab readers from the outset and keep them reading until the end.
Reviewed by Mem Capp