It’s just over a year ago since I reviewed Amanda Ortlepp’s debut novel, Claiming Noah – which is about to be released in the US and Canada – so timely perhaps that the Aussie author is back with Running Against the Tide… another novel about families, secrets and obsession.
Running Against the Tide
by Amanda Ortlepp
Published by Simon and Schuster Au
on March 1st 2016
Source: Simon & Schuster
Genres: Thriller / Suspense
Erin Travers is running away from her life and taking her two sons with her to a small town on the ruggedly beautiful Eyre Peninsula. The close-knit township is full of happy childhood memories for Erin, but she is bringing a whole lot of baggage with her.
When the peaceful community is disrupted by theft and arson, everyone has different ideas about who is responsible. In a small town where lives are tangled too closely together, old grudges flare, fingers are pointed and secrets are unmasked.
I’ve read a lot of novels recently about people on the run, so was relieved when it turned out that Erin wasn’t really in hiding… just moving on from her past. And again (happily) that past is shared pretty quickly so there’s no big reveal on that front. For me (and… after all, I’m the only one who matters! 😉 ) it meant the book was more about Erin and her boys (Mike and Ryan) and their family dynamic.
In fact, Running Against the Tide touches on many important issues such as family violence, relationships, and addiction; all set amidst the Eyre Peninsula and an oyster farming community.
Ortlepp does a wonderful job with the characters. We got to know (the kinda-ineffectual) Erin pretty quickly; and I loved the elderly neighbour and oyster farmer Jono as well as Erin’s eldest, Mike. Indeed, it felt like a rarity to read a novel featuring a relatively normal 18-19yr old – living at home, working hard etc. I’m not sure if that’s because I mostly read American novels (so NOT going leaving home for college is unusual); or many feature stereotypical youngsters – either high-achievers at University; or vicious psychopaths expelled multiple times from high school.
And then there’s Ryan: a loner at his old school, little seems to have changed. In fact, his attitude has possibly deteriorated and Erin’s mostly in denial… hoping it’s a phase. But his behaviour freaks out his older brother and Jono’s early interactions with the surly 15yr old leave him wary.
The book’s well written and paced, but there were a couple of threads which didn’t quite come together for me. We never really understood what was behind Jono’s seething hatred for fellow oyster farmer Puff (who becomes Erin’s love interest). And the plot around Erin’s nightly visitor / admirer didn’t entirely gel. I felt it could have been built up a little more as the conclusion seemed sudden and not entirely convincing. And the outcome of that particular storyline was a little abrupt.
Similarly… the twist on the oyster-stealing plot was depressing, but not overly suspenseful. I was kinda expecting another twist at the end – which would have turned the rest of the novel on its head. (I’ll share a mini-spoiler for those who’ve read it on Goodreads!)
However, having said that, the characters were great and setting and (oyster farming) context beautiful. This was a solid read and it’s great to see Ortlepp deliver on her early promise.
Running Against the Tide by Amanda Ortlepp was published in Australia by Simon & Schuster.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.