If I were asked to describe this book in one word, I would reply with a single syllable: meh. The Dry is a lauded debut with a respectably high rating, but I was obviously missing something. It wasn’t a bad book, I just couldn’t quite manage to connect.
Two simultaneous mysteries plague Aaron Fawk’s tiny hometown when he returns after twenty years, one a triple murder/suicide that is the sole reason he has chosen to return to the town, and the other a more than twenty year old questionable death that was the reason he was driven out of the town in the first place. The narrative jumps back and forth between timelines and Fawk tries to find answers regarding the death of his friend and his family, as well as the death of another friend decades in the past. Both plot lines presented intriguing mysteries that weren’t easily solved, and both were wrapped up neatly by the book’s final pages.
Fawk is a really good guy who has had a rough life, mostly because of the small-minded townspeople of Kiewarra who drove him and his father from their family home. These same people give Fawk hell when he returns, hoping to understand what happened to his friend Luke and why that drove him to kill his wife and child before turning the gun on himself. But the deeper Fawk digs, the more old wounds come to the surface, and the less sure he is that Luke’s death is as cut and dried as it first appeared. Even as the town that hates him tries to drive him away for a second time, Fawk refuses to give up his off-the-books investigation until he has answers. And if those answers also lead to more information about Ellie’s death twenty years ago, so much the better.
I love reading about places that I long to visit. Australia is among those places. But if that visit involved a stay in Kiewarra, I believe I would rather pass. Very rarely have I encountered a setting I hated more, which I know was part of the point. Kiewarra is an agricultural community in the midst of one of the worst droughts on record, so obviously tensions are high. And those tensions are ratcheted up even higher by the apparent murder/suicide of a family of their own. If one farmer lost it and took out almost his entire family to escape the drought, will the same idea worm its way into the minds of others?
This was a well written debut, with a compelling cast of characters, a three-dimensional setting, and mysteries that kept you guessing but whose answers made complete sense with the clues sprinkled throughout the text. I felt that the pace was a bit plodding, but I recognize the allure of a slow burning suspense such as Harper delivered. While I respect it and appreciate it for what it is, it’s a book that I feel myself already forgetting. I don’t know why it didn’t work for me, but I’m far from the norm. The Dry is popular for a reason; don’t let my experience in any way hinder your own.
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