Books & Literature

Book Review: The Spill, by Imbi Neeme

CONTEMPORARY FICTION: When a car overturns on a remote road, the impact is felt for decades as the surviving kids remember events differently.

A thought-provoking read about how childhood perceptions can impact who we become as adults.

In 1982, sisters Nicole and Samantha survived a car accident in remote Western Australia. While there were no life changing injuries, their memories of the event have impacted them for decades. Both girls remember the moments leading up to their mother, Tina, losing control of their car – just not quite in the same way.

Four decades later, Nicole and Samantha are forced to confront all the issues that stemmed from the accident after their mother passes away. Nicole is a free spirit, drifting aimlessly through life, seemingly carefree. That is, until she finds love with the perfect man: he’s rich, he’s handsome and he’s attentive. So why can’t she commit? Samantha has taken control of her life. She has ticked all the boxes required to have the perfect life: career – check, husband – check, child – check. Nobody can accuse her of not earning everything she has, but could what she’s been hiding for all these years tear her perfect life apart?

The story switches between present day and moments from the past. The memories are presented in the form of puzzle pieces as opposed to chapters, slowly piecing together the significant and sometimes seemingly-insignificant events in the sister’s lives that make up the bigger picture of who they each became.

I really enjoyed the concept of this book, showing how two people can grow up with the same parents but have completely different perceptions of their childhood – which in turn, results in such differing personalities. Both Nicole and Samantha are believable and relatable, and it was interesting to see the dynamics between them play out. Samantha always felt like she had to work hard for everything she got and was always left to organise everything, while Nicole just floated through life with no purpose yet got the happy ending. Well, in Samantha’s mind anyway.

While the story was told from both sisters’ point of view, Samantha seems to be the main protagonist, going through the biggest transformation. The exploration of the sisters’ complex relationship is a relief for anyone who didn’t have the perfect, always-besties relationship the media leads us to believe sisterhood should be.

There is a trigger warning for alcoholism in this novel as the whole family is left to deal with the repercussions of one character’s heavy drinking, but it’s done in a respectful and overall optimistic way.

The Spill is Imbi Neeme’s debut novel and was the winner of the 2019 Penguin Literary Prize. There is no doubts as to why this story won. It was a captivating read, well written, with realistic characters. The story moved at an engaging pace where every sentence had a purpose. I look forward to reading more from this author.

Reviewed by Jessica Incoll
Twitter: @littlejadventur

Distributed by: Penguin Books Australia
Released: June 2020
RRP: $32.99

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