After his mother's death, Grey North takes on the responsibility of raising his sister, and when she becomes badly injured, Grey, his best friend, and his alcoholic father get deep into trouble trying to pay off her medical bills. - (Baker & Taylor)
Grey's mother dies giving birth to his sister Irene and he prays that she will be returned to him so he might protect her from the world as his father did not. This prayer, Grey believes, is answered in his sister Irene. He becomes obsessed with protecting her purity and innocence while befriending the wild boys of the small town of Mary Smokes ? horse-handlers and fox hunters and part-time timber workers ? members of a small, vanishing tribe who find themselves caught between an old relationship with place and a new one that is exemplified by the highway that threatens their town. Holland's kinship with Per Petterson's Out Stealing Horses is palpable. The Mary Smokes Boys is heart-rending and unforgettable, a suspenseful story of horse thieves and broken promises, of love and tragedy, of the fragility and grace of small town life, and how one fateful moment can forever alter the course of a life.
- (Perseus Publishing
This sparely written, compact novel from Australian author Holland captures both the fragility and the beauty of the rural small town of Mary Smokes, located in Brisbane Valley and home to Grey North. Grey misses the loving mother he lost when she died giving birth to his sister, Irene. His father is often drunk or off working, so he is responsible for his sister's care. Grey finds companionship with a gang known as the "wild boys," especially the orphaned Gordon "Ook" Eccleston. But their small town offers few options, and most of the young people leave as soon as they are able. When Irene is badly injured, the family is left with huge medical bills, and an ill-conceived scheme by Grey's ne'er-do-well father brings even bigger problems. The strange scenes between brother and sister, the close friendship of the boys regarded as outsiders, and the looming Australian landscape all elicit Holland's prose at its most atmospheric. The final portion of the novel, when the plot finally kicks into high gear, is riveting. A fine piece of work from a writer with real potential. Copyright 2014 Booklist Reviews.
Library Journal Reviews
It's 1985 in dusty Mary Smokes, Australia, and Grey North's mother has died in childbirth. With a drunkenly distant father and stern grandmother, Grey finds comfort only with little sister Irene as he gets involved with boxing and local roughs. Prejudice against Aborigines darkens the narrative. VERDICT This lucidly written, beautifully unsentimental work introduces a rising Australian author to America; highly recommended as a different kind of coming-of-age tale.
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