Sometimes it takes running away to realise home is where you belong.
The Roadhouse is the ninth book by Australian author Kerry McGinnis. Having lived on a station in Gulf country and extensively travel around the Northern Territory, it is clear McGinnis has taken a lot of her own experiences and used them as the basis for her stories. This makes it easy to visualise the beautiful but unforgiving landscape and makes for a realistic portrayal of life running a roadhouse in the middle of nowhere.
The story follows Charlie Carver, an aspiring actress pursuing her dreams in Melbourne. When Charlie learns that her cousin Annabelle has died, she immediately leaves her life behind to support her mother who runs the family roadhouse located east of Alice Springs. Not long after she returns home, her mother suffers a heart attack and is flown out for life-saving surgery. With an already strained relationship, this leaves Charlie to run the roadhouse along with a grumpy old groundskeeper and newly appointed foreign chef.
Starting strong with a variety of problems being introduced and a solid introduction to our protagonist, McGinnis sets the pace for a well-rounded and compelling read. With investigations into Annabelle’s suspected suicide, a robbery gone horribly wrong, a variety of family secrets coming to light, budding romances, and Charlie learning to find her feet in a place she thought she had left behind, there is never a dull moment in this page-turning thriller.
Charlie is a likable and relatable character. I found it easy to empathise with her situation and found her actions to be realistic and believable. I particularly enjoyed the relationship development between Charlie and her mother.
An unexpected addition to the story was a really sweet love story. I enjoyed the addition of two very different courtships. The contrast between the development of a new romance in the harsh surroundings and murder investigations was done well. I’m not usually a huge reader of romance but this was done in a sweet and subtle way.
While this is a fictional story, knowing McGinnis upbringing, I found this to be an educational insight into what life would be like living in the outback of Australia. Whilst it may not be as dramatic, the day-to-day chores of running a roadhouse, the sense of comradery between locals, and the perils of seeking medical attention in regional areas seemed to be realistically portrayed.
This novel has something for everyone, mystery, suspense, romance and self-discovery. A brilliant and engaging read.
Reviewed by Jessica Incoll
Distributed by: Penguin Books Australia
Released: July 2019