Like a good movie, a book is successful if it leaves you thinking about it for days. Lexi Landsman’s first novel, The Ties that Bind, does just that.
I would place this novel in the genre of realistic fiction which is based on excellent research on bushfires (in Victoria), the treatment of leukaemia in children, soccer and olive tree farming. A rather unusual combination set between two very distant main locations of Somerset (fictional name) in Victoria and Miami in Florida.
The story flows easily between the two main characters of Jade and her family in Australia and Courtney and her family in Miami. The cover up of indiscretions in past generations with lies that often led to more lies, on which children’s own lives and futures were based is not an uncommon theme and also a reflection of closed attitudes of past generations.
The difference in this book is that it is based on enduring love between Courtney, her husband David and their talented young soccer player Matthew (in Miami) and between Jade, her grandmother who is her rock and Jade’s new found love, Adam.
It is also a cleverly woven account of two unrelated traumatic events, both heartbreaking, challenging and testing of the human spirit. It is a story of “nature and nurture”, p411. How can a violent bushfire be similar or linked in any way to the diagnosis and treatment of an eleven-year-old boy who is identified as having leukaemia on opposite sides of the globe?
The Ties That Bind is so aptly named and is the link. These actual words were spoken by Jade to her love and partner, Adam and toward the end of the book when she finally knows that she has a sister and a nephew in need of a bone marrow transplant.
What makes this book a gentle but compelling read is that enough clues are given by the author for the reader to pre-empt most of what actually happens before the characters in the book actually have to face their truths or events. However, the reader is left as anxious as the parents in not knowing the outcome for their so loved son, Matthew.
I found it interesting that there are two fathers and both are portrayed as rather weak, or troubled individuals, although we can sympathise with Courtney’s father Frank who appears to have the beginnings of Alzheimer’s. Toward the end of the book we, like their respective daughters, can understand why and what has made each as they are.
The human qualities of love and truth versus dishonesty and cover-up are so poignantly told.
It is also the story of determination and perseverance; destruction and regeneration or through Jade’s eyes, “a strange paradox: the fire had coursed so much death but here it was a source of life”. p258
A gripping story that toward the end kept me turning the pages for three straight hours. Read it and see!
The Ties That Bind, by Lexi Landsman, is available from Dymocks.
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