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Book review: ‘Kokomo’ by Victoria Hannan

One conversation … I’ve come all this way. One conversation is all I want.

Kokomo by Victoria Hannan

I was lucky to be on Twitter and put my virtual hand up at the time when Hachette announced a few uncorrected proof copies of this book were available. I had no idea what this yet to be published book was about, but that’s how I like it – dive right in and go wherever the author wants to take me!

Blurb on the back

When Mina receives an urgent call from her best friend back in Melbourne, her world is turned upside down. Her agoraphobic mother, Elaine, has left the house for the first time in twelve years. Mina drops everything to fly home, only to discover that Elaine will not talk about her sudden return to the world, nor why she’s spent so much time hiding from it. Their reunion leaves Mina raking through pieces of their painful past in a bid to uncover the truth.

My thoughts

Why did Elaine stay inside the house for twelve years? Why did she make the choices she made throughout her life? Like Mina, I was perplexed.

We begin the story in London, where Mina has spent seven years establishing herself in the advertising industry. The London pubs, nightlife, share accommodation, late nights working on advertising ‘pitches’. That corporate ladder is so real I can almost feel the rungs.

I’m then transported to what I clearly see is an outer Melbourne, and very Australian, suburb as Mina returns to her childhood home. Here she’s forced to compare her chosen life path to those of her old friends as she stumbles across them.

Kokomo has some great descriptive writing which flows easily and strongly anchors mood and place. Here is an example showing how Mina feels when she first re-enters her childhood home:

She felt the silence draw up around her like floodwater. She wades down the hall. The striped green wallpaper dotted with pink roses gave her the impression she was in a prison designed by Laura Ashley.

Mina now begins the process of untangling the complicated relationship with her mother. At first I don’t want Mina to pick too much at Elaine, in case uncovering the truth is too uncomfortable for all of us.

For much of this book I didn’t understand Elaine’s choices. But then drawing together all the insights into her life, which are scattered perfectly throughout the narrative, I started to understand her motivations. Kokomo has great character development and portrayal.

This book gave me something to think about. Two weeks after reaching ‘The End’ Kokomo is not yet done with me – I’m still holding onto hopes for Mina and Elaine’s future. If author Victoria Hannan wanted me to be invested in her characters, she certainly succeeded.

Kokomo

Published by: Hachette

299 pages

The perfect gift for a writer

Yesterday I was given a wonderful gift, perfect for every writer. It wasn’t wine, flowers, or a new notebook.

What do all writers need? Time to write of course, and a spurt of creative energy. My wonderful gift gave me both.

For me creative energy is my new currency, vying with money for importance. Having enough money allows me to buy and do things. I generally have enough to meet my day-to-day needs because I work full-time, but this means I’m often depleted of creative energy. I need creative energy to write, and think about what I’m going to write. In addition to writing, I also use creative energy to organise family activities, plan and cook meals, and enable a fulfilling, enlivened relationship with my partner.

Money/work/creativity are in a constant three-way arm-wrestle.

My creative energy is depleted by fatigue, stress and overwork. Last week I was offered an overtime shift which I turned down, because I know working six days straight comes with a cost to my creativity.

I replenish my creative energy by spending time in nature, exercising, having some time to myself. It’s also self-perpetuating in that the more creative things I do the more creative energy I have. Going to the theatre, an exhibition or other creative excursion also lifts my creativity, as do social events and conversations provided I’m not tired. Inspiration is everywhere when I have the energy to recognise it.

Being given creative energy and time was my perfect gift. It was presented as a hamper containing lime, capsicum, carrots, mushroom, coriander, bean sprouts, tofu, coconut milk and homemade laksa paste. Everything sliced, chopped and ready, for a fresh, delicious family meal. Today I did’t need to plan a meal and go shopping; I’ve been given more time and more creative energy. I can sit, and write, for a few extra hours. Thank you.

I’d love to hear your tips for replenishing creativity!

Happy birthday

My birthday always involves some introspection. Today I’ve had additional time to  introspect as circumstances have led me to spend much of the day alone. It’s been great, and unnerving.

My birthday heralds an annual mid-life mini crisis. This year may become a mid-life medium or monumental crisis. It’s still evolving, pending my capacity to progress it or quash it.

I think a mid-life crisis generally might include changing homes and jobs. With my skills in self-diagnosis I have concluded that I am at risk. This afternoon with my husband I raised the prospect of our moving to the country. My poor shift-working husband, hit with this when he’d only just awoken and was yet to be caffeinated. After he left for work this evening I further developed my crisis, only just refraining from calling up a friend to ask her to refer me for a new job in the country. But sensibly, I’ll only need that new job if we do move to the country.

Sensibly . . . sensible. Every year after my birthday I sensibly suppress the crisis.

My husband and I have good jobs, we live in a good suburb, close to work and the kids’ schools. Choosing to be sensible is one way to suppress the crisis. But I have other methods. Other tools in my tool-belt include practicing gratitude for what I have; minor distractions like Facebook, watching TV and reading; and major distractions such as undertaking a university degree while working full time (guaranteed to reduce the time available to ruminate existentially).

Distracting myself, pushing additional information into my brain, or perhaps the occasional wine to relax my mind all help ensure there’s no time or inclination to ponder life and its overall direction. All of this can work, except when it’s my birthday.

I’m possibly due for a mid-life crisis. I’ve previously had an earlyish-life crisis. A monumental one, but the outcome was fantastic. I went out into the desert on a holiday and decided to never go back home. A story for another day.

image courtesy of @finnmacfee

Take off

Getting my blog off the ground has been much harder than I anticipated.

Over the past 2-3 weeks I’ve accumulated 165 followers on Twitter – massive right, I know 😉 – with not much to recommend me except a bio claiming I blog about books, bikes, bonding and banter. But the truth is I don’t blog. Well, that is until now. For the past few weeks I’ve been faking it.

Getting my blog off the ground has been much harder than I anticipated. Just writing my twelve-word twitter bio took twenty revisions. Who am I? How can I describe myself and what I’m setting out to achieve in just a few words? Who do I want to connect with?

How can I write about interests as diverse as nature, adventure, motorcycling, vegetarianism and step-parenting? I’m also passionate about writing, and Aussie fiction and film.

But 160-odd people signed up to follow me on Twitter. Even discounting the ‘bots’, and the people/pages who have connected with me hoping I’ll follow them back, in a few short weeks I’ve connected with at least a smattering of people interested in some aspect of me.

Making these connections has reinforced for me that we are all people with diverse interests, struggling to describe ourselves in a few words on a Twitter bio. I’ve been having enjoyable, short (it is Twitter) conversations with people on topics of mutual interest. I’ve met some great people! My hope is to connect with some more great people by blogging, with the scope to use a few more words.

This is blog post #1 – Take Off.

Photo courtesy of Instagram @finnmacfee