Book review: Joy Moody is Out of Time by Kerryn Mayne

Wednesday, February 28, 2024 Permalink

Joy Moody is Out of Time by Kerryn Mayne is the second book by the talented Aussie author. Her debut, Lenny Marks Gets Away With Murder was published last year and one of my favourite books of 2023. Mayne replicates that storytelling élan here with a quirky plot and unexpected characters. The book is centred in the present, resplendent with unanswered questions and revelations but there’s a mystery in the past… hovering just beyond our reach. There are some hints dropped throughout the book of what that might be but Mayne times the final reveal(s) brilliantly.

Book review: Joy Moody is Out of Time by Kerryn MayneJoy Moody is Out of Time
by Kerryn Mayne
Published by Bantam Australia
on 27/02/2024
Source: Penguin Random House Australia
Genres: General Fiction, Literary Fiction
ISBN: 9781761343285
Pages: 352

On her twin daughters’ twenty-first birthday, Joy Moody – proprietor of Bayside’s premier laundromat – is found dead. Yet that is not the strangest thing happening behind the bright pink facade of Joyful Suds.

For much of their lives, Joy has been telling Cassie and Andie one big, fat lie: that they are from the future, and that when they turn twenty-one they will travel back to the year 2050.

What started as a colourful tale to explain how the girls came to live with her has now become a decades-long deception. Worse still, Joy has started to believe it herself.

The big lie is certainly preferable to the truth she just can’t face – about what happened to the girls’ real mother and how far Joy's gone to keep them 'safe' . . .

With the twins’ twenty-first birthday fast approaching, and with Andie starting to have doubts - particularly when she discovers her ‘future’ is eerily similar to one of her mother's favourite books – time is fast running out for Joy Moody. In more ways than one.

I hadn’t read the blurb before starting this so was a little perplexed by the 11yr-led assertion that the girls were from the future. Was Joy fooling herself I wondered? Did she have some sort of psychosis that led her to believe this. But then she very bluntly tells us she made the story up and has meant to come clean ever since… but just not had the right opportunity.

And in the present she’s becoming confused, with a malignant tumour spreading through her brain.

She’d had to mine deeper into her memories than ever before to recall how the stories started and why. She meant to end it years ago, and now she needed to do it quickly while she still knew fact from fiction. She couldn’t blame the brain tumour for everything; she had been lacking courage for many years, long before those cells started to turn bad. p 31

As a logic-lover I was relieved that she wasn’t a conspiracy-theorist, and loved that she didn’t believe any of the guff she told the girls. Instead, hiding a reality-TV show habit and fearful of a past secret being revealed.

Mayne gives us three narrators here, Joy and her two daughters. We start on d-day and then go back a few weeks… though moving forward fairly quickly. And as the girls’ 21st birthday gets closer they start to make pivotal changes in their lives, realising their time remaining is short. Andie has discovered that her mother has been lying about their past and future but doesn’t understand why. Cassie knows she cannot believe both Joy AND Andie and is torn between the two people she loves most.

I appreciated that Mayne doesn’t draw out the inevitable moment of truth. In some ways that’s when this story actually starts. And when Joy’s story ends.

This story should be unfathomable. But we learn how Joy’s isolated the girls and they’ve accepted what they’ve been told. Often frustrated by their mother, she’s kept them safe and is obviously devoted to them. So this is a novel about family and love. And Mayne offers a great support cast (of fellow misfits in the small shopping strip) reminding us that family are sometimes those we choose.

This is a book that could be baffling but it isn’t. It’s bittersweet and ultimately heartwarming. And another excellent offering by Mayne.

Joy Moody is Out of Time by Kerryn Mayne was published in Australia by Penguin Books.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes. 


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