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Underground Road - Book Review

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by Haydn Radford (subscribe)
Haydn Radford -A freelance writer born in Adelaide, who loves living here. I write about movies, theatre, entertainment, literary and art events. I am happy to promote & review your events.
Published November 12th 2013
Sharon Kernot's debut novel
Lower Lakes Stockman's challenge

A frank and cleverly told story of residents living ordinary lives in the same street in a underprivileged suburb in contemporary Australia. The characters represent a cross section of a working class community as their stories unfold in realistic detail. In individual chapters we learn of their problems of bullying, domestic violence, mental illness, gambling, drug and alcohol addiction, along with small acts of kindness as their lives are clearly intertwined throughout the novel, building to a page turning climax.

Underground Road is the first novel by Adelaide author Sharon Kernot. In 2010 Underground Road was short-listed for the Unpublished Manuscript category of the Adelaide Festival Awards. Sharon is also the author of a collection of short stories, In the Shadows of the Garden, and a collection of poems, Washday Pockets. She is the current Writer in Residence on the Disability Program at the SA Writers' Centre. Underground Road was published by Wakefield Press, 2013.

Underground Road is a moving yet dismal story as it describes the distressing situation of Damien; a young boy struggling to deal with his violent step-father, and the local bully, Tyson, who is the product of a mother with a drug addiction problem. One of the few highs in the book comes from Damien showing love, protection and caring towards his younger siblings while he struggles to avoid extreme acts of bullying at home and at school.

Mary and Jack, are residents whose ordinary lives reveal issues with their marriage, which is aggravated by Mary being compelled to do volunteering work so she is entitled to receive Centrelink, much to Jack's disapproval. Her friend Edith, a widow, through loneliness is addicted to playing the pokies.

Underground Road explores violent themes as it builds to a gripping and unsettling climax. Kernot's writing is clear, believable and thought provoking as it accurately touches on issues so often exposed in the media concerning violence and crime in underprivileged socio-economic suburban areas. Although it offers no solutions to the issues it raises, I would suggest the book is suitable for students 15 years plus, as it surely raises various issues that would be worthy of group discussion.
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Why? An engaging, thought provoking and honest novel, will challenge your social conscience.
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