About the Book:
Through the unlikeliest of friendships comes a second chance.
Rosie Larson doesn’t trust people – and with good reason. Her violent ex-boyfriend, Joel, is out of jail and she’s determined he won’t find her or their eleven-year-old son.
For Isobel Hutchins, the cost of success is beginning to prove too high. Her impressive career and comfortable lifestyle can’t protect her from the news her mother is dying or the need to face her past.
When tragedy strikes, Rosie and Isobel are thrown together despite their differences. In this difficult space, they draw strength from each other and form an unlikely friendship that may just see them through.
Small Blessings is a poignant and uplifting tale of secrets, motherhood, innocence and heartache, and ultimately what we’re willing to do for love.
I really like Emily Brewin’s writing. She has a pared back, insightful and unflinchingly honest approach to her novels. The character development is strong and the emotional pull is tight. Small Blessings is not a very long novel, but a lot of themes are condensed into its short and powerful chapters. I read this novel in two sittings, and if I’d had the time, I would have read it in one. It’s that good, ‘un-put-down-able’.
‘Good and bad are just flip sides of a coin. She wouldn’t have Petey without Joel. Maybe life’s all about perspective, or hindsight.’
The novel is tagged on the cover as a story of unlikely friendship, which is a theme I really enjoy, although the further into the novel I got it seemed, given the short length of this novel, that this friendship was going to come too late in the story. I should have just trusted in Emily though, as of course, she has it timed to perfection. Rosie and Isobel are very different people whose paths would not normally have crossed. It was hard at first to envisage these two developing an acquaintance much less an actual meaningful friendship, but the power of this story lies in those connections we sometimes make as humans, the ones that aren’t orchestrated or forced or developed for personal gain. The ones that evolve out of meeting the right person at the right time with all other determining factors falling away.
‘She clutches the woman. Despite her slightness the woman half carries Rosie to the bench next to the playground then sits beside her. Petey is everywhere. She doesn’t want the woman to let go in case the broken pieces of her fly away. No one has held her like this for so long.’
I admired Rosie as a character and championed for her instantly but Isobel rested uneasy within me. She was not an overly likeable character, driven by her own goals and selfish really, somewhat conceited and standoffish, very judgemental. As her background unfolded, I came to understand her more thoroughly but that didn’t equate to liking her. I think elements of her reminded me of myself a little too much, if I’m honest, just in terms of origins and pathways chosen. It’s not easy to transition from working class into middle and/or upper. Being the first in your family to cross that divide and go to university and work on a whole different level to your parents involves a lot internal adjustment. You begin to move in different circles and experience life in different shades to what you ever have before. I still struggle to relate to my father at times. Uneasy lies the beast within, or something like that. Isobel struggled with the shame of her origins and guilt over feeling the shame, a cycle that had wound itself around her so tightly that she missed the opportunity to have the type of relationship with her mother that they both deserved. It was very grounding, emotionally, to bear witness to Isobel’s unravelling as she lost her mother for the last time. It becomes a bit of a catalyst for her, along with her fertility struggles, and she is forced into some heavy introspection prior to changing the direction of her life.
‘Her parents worked hard too. And what did they have to show for it? Definitely not a wardrobe full of designer clothes. No, they got two highly educated, very successful adult children instead, who didn’t want a bar of them.’
Small Blessings is a novel about real people living out real lives and it seemed to me that so many of the problems the characters experienced stemmed from a lack of communicating with each other. It also deals with some big issues ranging from domestic violence, infertility, prejudice against young single mothers, raising a child with special needs, drug addiction, cancer, and extramarital affairs. Sounds like a long list and you might be reeling right now wondering if it’s all too much. It isn’t. It’s amazing. Emily Brewin is a rare talent, one of those authors that can tightly weave so many issues together into a novel that is truly fitting for our times. Small Blessings is an extremely accessible novel for readers of all tastes and I highly recommend it to all.
‘It comes out, a big angry gasp, as if she’s releasing something sickening into the air. It hurts like hell then feels like freedom, as if the words contain all the others that have been left unsaid for so long.’
Thanks is extended to Allen and Unwin for providing me with a copy of Small Blessings for review.
About the Author:
Emily Brewin is a Melbourne-based author and educator.
She has been awarded an Australian Society of Authors Emerging Writers’ and Illustrators’ Mentorship for her fiction writing, and has been shortlisted for Hachette Australia’s Manuscript Development Program and Varuna’s Publisher Introduction Program. She was recently awarded a 2018 Moreland writer’s residency and a 2018 Bundanon Trust artist residency to develop her third novel, The Piano.
Emily’s short stories have been short listed for a number of literary awards, including the 2017 Bristol Short Story Prize, Alan Marshall Short Story Award, Overland’s Fair Australia Prize and the Elyne Mitchell Writing Awards.
Her work has been published in Feminartsy, Meanjin, Kill Your Darlings, Mamamia, Shine, Metro and Screen Education magazines.
Hello, Goodbye is her first novel. Her second, Small Blessings, was released with Allen & Unwin in February 2019.
Published by Allen and Unwin
Released February 2019