Book Review: Loveland by Robert Lukins

About the Book:

Two women stand in the shallows, a man dead at their feet, while around them buildings burn.

Amid the ruins of a fire-ravaged amusement park and destroyed waterfront dwellings, one boarded-up building still stands. May has come from Australia to Loveland, Nebraska, to claim the house on the poisoned lake as part of her grandmother’s will. Escaping the control of her husband, will she find refuge or danger?

As she starts repairing the old house, May is drawn to discover more about her silent, emotionally distant grandmother and unravel the secrets that Casey had moved halfway around the world to keep hidden. How she and Casey’s lives interconnect, and the price they both must pay for their courage, is gradually revealed as this mesmerising and lyrical novel unfolds.

Compelling, compassionate, and profoundly moving, this new novel by the acclaimed author of The Everlasting Sunday confirms Robert Lukins as one of our finest writers.

Published by Allen & Unwin

Released 1st March 2022

My Thoughts:

It’s been four years since the release of Robert Lukins’ debut novel, The Everlasting Sunday. In my review for that novel, I closed with this statement:

‘The Everlasting Sunday is a fine debut and I feel certain this is only the beginning of great literary endeavours for Robert Lukins.’

I was right. His latest release, Loveland, has been worth the wait. It is a stunning novel, rich in both beauty and brutality. No one writes quite like Robert Lukins. He is a master of words, lyrically weaving them all together with visual clarity, blunt force, and impeccable timing. I really believe sometimes that books find you at the right moment. This may sound strange, coming from a reviewer, because the books are sent to me, not discovered through another channel. But I get a lot of books, far more than I can read at the time of their release, so I have to be selective, and this is where the magic comes in. Sometimes, I pick up a book knowing that this is the one I have to read right now, and so it was with Loveland. Not because of the impending release date, not even because it is written by Robert Lukins, and I’ve been waiting on another release by him since five minutes past reading his debut novel. No, I had to read Loveland at that point in time because when I picked it up, looked at the cover, and read the description I knew, really knew, that this novel had something to say that I needed to hear at that particular time. And it did. It spoke to me on a whole other level, whispered in my ear and reeled me in. It is the most magnificent novel of losing oneself, giving up, giving in, and then rising again, quite literally from out of the ashes.

‘It was the unending struggle for air. This was the worst of it and the thing that never passed. The fear that stole her every breath.’

Robert is so intimately acquainted with all the many shades of humanity and seems blessed with an ability to articulate this with such realism. And I am not sure how he understands women so well, it is a rare gift for a male writer to be able to write women with such precision and insight. Loveland is a dual storyline that demonstrates with painful clarity the way in which violence can cross generations with eerie repetitiveness. As both stories unfolded and overlapped, the intended destination for both women, grandmother and granddaughter, merged with a stunning symmetry that stole my breath. And while much of this story is character driven, there are other themes running through the story, shaping the plot, and directing the focus. In some ways, Loveland is almost like a love letter to Nebraska, the changing face of it, the way in which economics and environment ceased to cohabit and instead began to clash. Loveland’s dying lake and bitter depressed economy are a microcosm of the American mid-west. The scene that Robert has set as the backdrop for his story is atmospheric, oppressive, and familiar.

This is a novel I wanted to both savour and devour. It will remain on my shelf as a favourite. Five stars just doesn’t seem enough.

☕☕☕☕☕

Thanks to the publisher for the review copy.

7 thoughts on “Book Review: Loveland by Robert Lukins

  1. “waiting on another release by him since five minutes past reading his debut novel”.
    Oh me too.
    I’ve waited to read this review until after I’d finished the book and written my review: I hear you, loud and clear.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Loveland, by Robert Lukins | ANZ LitLovers LitBlog

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