June 6 2021
Off the Map, by Scot Gardner
Title: Off the map
Author: Scot Gardner
Genre/ issues: YA. Short stories. Life in a small town. Australian fiction.
There’s a prestigious history of Australian authors capturing the soul of our landscape in their writing. Lawson’s “sketch” short stories which capture a moment in the life of an outback family, where the bush looms large as perhaps the most significant character. Winton’s seascapes, evoking the depth and intensity of small town coastal WA. It may be a big call, but I’d add Off The Map by Scot Gardner to that list.
An anthology of short stories that present the triumphs and heartbreaks of the sons and daughters of an Australian town, both typical and unique. The diversity of stories, characters and ideas is carried throughout the collection, not by plot which is sparse, but by a beautifully measured sense of place. I know this isn’t about my hometown, but it equally could be. One of the stories could be mine. Another a friend I grew up with. And yet another, the family down the street whose comings and goings I used to wonder about.
The majority of these stories are suitable for a younger YA audience, but there is one that features content that may be more suitable to slightly older readers. I read this book yesterday in 2 sittings, and at the end of each story I took a moment to marvel, to ponder, and to wish I was in an English classroom so I could share it with my students. I’m not sure if it’ll be one of my top 5 books overall this year, but it’s certainly one I’m going to be recommending a lot!