Ruby Porter’s writing grips you from the opening volley of words. Her writing has the intensity of Sally Rooney, the rawness of Andrew McGahan’s Praise and 1988 but is also distinctly original. The narrator of the novel infuses the story with an amazing voice that is immensely fragile and beautifully haunting.
The book is told over two road trips around New Zealand’s North Island. Ruby Porter captures both the evocative landscapes of the journey as well as the emotional turmoil of the narrator in short sharp jabs and punches that won’t let you put the book down. We jump seamlessly between the present and the past and back again as the narrator tries to come to grips with all the relationships in her life; her ex-boyfriend, her current girlfriend, her best friend and her mother. Porter uses the course the road trip takes, both physically and emotionally, to bring her narrator full circle as each of her relationships begins to fracture and break. As she is drawn back home she returns to family and must confront her feelings and her future plans.
New Zealand’s own battle between its past and its present also flows through the narrative. As the narrator journeys from town to town, coast to coast, memory to memory she bears witness to this delicate balance, its stark contradictions, the implicit guilt and the explicit ignorance and attempts to come to terms with her own family’s place in it all.
This is an utterly amazing debut and it is easy to see why it was the inaugural winner of The Michael Gifkins Prize. Like Australia’s own Vogel Award this prize seems destined to launch the career of some very talented writers.