REVIEW: THE OTHER SIDE OF THE SEASON BY JENN J MCLEOD

Due to time restraints while I work on my own novel, reviews on this site will simply comprise a book blurb and a short response.

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Jenn J McLeod had me at her first book. Now, with her fourth, The Other Side of the Season, I’m in love with her writing all over again. Here’s the blurb:

When offering to drive her brother to Byron Bay to escape the bitter Blue Mountains winter, Sidney neglects to mention her planned detour to the small coastal town of Watercolour Cove.

Thirty-five years earlier, Watercolour Cove is a very different place. Two brothers are working the steep, snake-infested slopes of a Coffs Coast banana plantation. Seventeen-year-old David does his share, but he spends too much time daydreaming about becoming a famous artist and skiving off with Tilly, the pretty girl from the neighbouring property. His older brother, Matthew, has no time for such infatuations. His future is on the land and he plans to take over the Greenhill plantation from his father.

Life is simple on top of the mountain for David, Matthew and Tilly until the winter of 1979 when tragedy strikes, starting a chain reaction that will ruin lives for years to come. Those who can, escape the Greenhill plantation. One stays—trapped on the mountain and haunted by memories and lost dreams.

That is, until the arrival of a curious young woman, named Sidney, whose love of family shows everyone the truth can heal, what’s wrong can be righted, the lost can be found, and . . . there’s another side to every story.

Jenn J McLeod draws past and present into a heart-wrenching climax in The Other Side of the Season, leaving readers with a bittersweet mix of sadness and hope. While some of the storyline fell into place early on, Jenn saved one big shock for last. Part of me knew it was coming, and I felt this sense of dread as I read the final chapters, not wanting to be right, but sensing it was how it had to be.

As always, Jenn shows her love for this country through her setting, but this time the strength of her characters stood out the most. They make mistakes, they fall down, but they get back up and take on another day. As a reader, you love some of them, dislike others; Jenn brings her characters’ motivations alive, keeping readers invested in the story no matter what, and drawing out a deeper, more compassionate understanding of why they are the way they are. Here, the idea of seasons, refers more to the seasons in a person’s life, and how new life seasons can bring different choices, attitudes and opportunities.

Emotive and multi-layered, this is a novel to curl up with (but make sure the tissues are close at hand). 

Available from good bookstores. My copy was courtesy of Simon & Schuster.