A year ago, a devastating bushfire ripped Annie’s world apart – killing her grandmother, traumatising her young daughter and leaving her mother’s home in the mountains half destroyed. Annie fled back to the city, but the mountain continues to haunt her. Now, drawn by a call for help from her uncle, she’s going back to the place she loves most in the world, to try to heal herself, her marriage, her daughter and her mother.
A heart-wrenching, tender and lovely novel about loss, grief and regeneration, Ache is not only a story of how we can be broken, but how we can put ourselves back together.
There’s a lot to love about this new release by Eliza Henry-Jones and nothing at all to dislike. Once again, we reap the benefit of Eliza’s experience and expertise in the areas of grief, loss and trauma. In Ache, we bear witness to a community in crisis, struggling one year on in the aftermath of a devastating bushfire. Lives were lost, animals and humans, and many were left with nothing. Recovery is being hampered by interest from a television crew intent on mining the trauma for ratings. People are angry, hurting, and resentful of interlopers.
One of the things Eliza has done best with Ache is way she’s peeled back the layers of human facade to expose all that lies beneath. Guilt and grief are firmly interlocked for most of the characters within Ache. For some, this results in self-destruction; for others, this spurs on revenge. Humans can be really shitty towards each other when driven by guilt and fear; there are times within Ache that I shuddered at the way people were treating each other, yet instinctively recognised it as actions fuelled by brokenness.
Above all, Ache is about healing. About gathering time and space enough to breathe out your guilt and fear as a way of moving forward through your grief. Little Pip is a special character, almost like a wild animal at the beginning of the story, her transformation through healing apparent as the novel progresses. Luna was my other love; I can’t go past a story that has a healing horse and Luna was a very intuitive and special horse who played an integral role in Annie’s recovery. Alongside grief and loss, motherhood is examined through the generations of Annie’s family, highlighting how sometimes a traumatic event results in a resurfacing of other feelings long repressed and left undone.
Deeply insightful and astoundingly honest, Ache will take you on a journey into the dark rivers of the human heart, and leave you feeling somewhat shattered and hopeful at the same time.
Ache is book 65 in my 2017 Australian Women Writers Challenge.