Jack is twelve years old and an inventor, creator of the famous Ponto – half potato onion. He’s the official photographer for the move to ‘Sea Breeze’ – the new family home, jokester extraordinaire and owner of Hector the rat. He’s Mum’s personal plumber and half of the washing-up-the-dishes super duo (the other half is Rob, stepdad-to-be). His life is going along pretty well, even though he has to put up with a Nanna who keeps buying purple undies for the whole family and whose false teeth do the occasional flip-flop – particularly nasty when they’ve got banana on them. And even though Mum keeps mentioning the wedding word and wants everyone to go shopping for outfits for the big day, Jack can cope. Though he’s not sure about sharing his workshop with Leo, Rob’s son. But Jack’s got his scientific experiments and he has two fantastic friends – Anna and Christopher.
Something happens, however, that turns Jack’s world upside-down. Everything changes when Mum comes home with some disturbing news.
Susanne Gervay has written another cracker. Her prose is tight, funny and engaging. Written in the present tense, the story has an immediacy that transports the reader right into the room with Jack. Gervay has a track record for tackling some difficult subject matter. This time around she delves into cancer, blended families and the Vietnam War. She does so, however, with alacrity and sensitivity, drawing the reader in to Jack’s internal world, to experience his emotional ups and downs with him.
The book deals with loss, death, ageing, fear, friendship, community and hope. It is about pulling together and resilience in the face of doubt. Susanne Gervay writes about ordinary life with humour and a freshness that makes this book a delight to read. Recommended.
(A version of this review appears in Magpies Vol 25, Issue 4, September 2010)