Book review: For Everything a Time by Mark McAvaney

Friday, May 10, 2024 Permalink

For Everything a Time by Mark McAvaney unfolds in the past (1990) and present (2003) and one of the things I loved most about this bittersweet novel is how many memories it brought back from both times.

It’s a story about family and friendship and I was reminded of those friendships we develop when young, in our formative years… sometimes merely out of circumstance or proximity but there’s something foundational about them that impacts the way we live the rest of our lives.

Book review: For Everything a Time by Mark McAvaneyFor Everything a Time
by Mark McAvaney
Published by Ultimo Press
on 01/05/2024
Source: Ultimo Press
Genres: General Fiction, Literary Fiction
ISBN: 1761152769
Pages: 296

After thirteen years it’s time for Mac to return home to face a past he’s been running from. A past his best friend Dave has been unable to escape.

It was 1999, their final year of school and with an INXS soundtrack, life was moving on. Bus stops, homework and football were giving way to pay slips and beer, to first cars and first loves.
Until one night changed it all.

As the story of that evening unravels, so too do the binds that cross generations of family. The pride of fathers. The love of mothers and a sister. The love of a mate; the prejudices that run deep. Testing them, and the strong social ties that small towns have, Mac searches for honesty and for the precious words never said, while Dave fights for his story to be heard.

In the present Dave is in a coma and has been for 13 years. But he hears everything that’s happening around him and daily visits from his mother means he knows what’s going on in the lives of those in Ennis Creek. Including that of his childhood best friend Mac who’s been away for all of those years.

Chapters unfold in the 2003 present and 1999 past via both Mac and Dave. There’s that blokey closeness to their relationship in their late teens. Where certain things are only broached tentatively, but the fact they’re broached at all by teenage boys is a testament to their closeness and camaraderie.

And in between the unfolding chapters McAvaney tells the story of alternate lives.

Maybe if I tell my story, even just to myself, it will set off a spark. But where does my story even start? Where does any story start? What in the past makes the present what it is? He said this. She did that. This happened. Then this took place. Change it all to ifs and maybes and it can mean another life for everyone. p 2

Mac hints at the reason for his return to town and it’s a tragic one. Kinda confronting in many ways. For readers knowing what’s coming and being privy to Dave’s thoughts, but obviously for our characters.

I liked the dichotomy of the families and characters on offer here. Mac the overweight un-athletic cerebral son of the kindly football coach; and Dave the sporty son of a man who belittles and beats his son and wife. And then of course there are friends of the boys, and again we’re offered insight into their teenage selves before meeting them again at 30.

Much of this thoughtful and eloquently-written novel is spent building up to ‘us’ learning what happened to land Dave in hospital. McAvaney paces this well so it doesn’t drag at all, even in the slow but steady build-up where snippets of past secrets and present revelations seep out.

I thought it was easy to see where this was going and I’ve read similar books in the past but McAvaney has a real talent for taking readers into the story, into the time and place. Casual but easy references to things I’d long forgotten and frequent references to the music that became a soundtrack to these friends’ teenage years was a highlight for me.

Everyone has a story. Every story has a time. p 116

For Everything a Time by Mark McAvaney was published in Australia by Ultimo Press.

I received an advance copy of this book (and an authentic Ennis Creek tea-towel!!!) from the publisher for review purposes. And the drying of dishes presumably. 


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