#AWW2017 Review – The Spare Room by Kathryn Lomer

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A couple of years ago I saw Kathryn Lomer in conversation with Cate Kennedy, a fantastic conversation about writing that encouraged me to buy at least one book by each of these fantastic authors. I bought ‘talk under water’ by Kathryn, and loved it, so I was really looking forward to reading this one, and I wasn’t disappointed.

The Spare Room is a beautiful story. Nineteen year old Akira has ben sent to Australia by his very stern, (an as Akira puts it himself) ‘very Japanese’ father.  The plan is that Akira will learn English and will then be able to take over the international arm of his father’s company. But Akira has desires and plans of his own, and his time in Australia shows him that he can have a life outside of his father’s plans.

But there is another story here too. Akira has lost his closest friend, Satoshi, who could not take the pressure of his own father’s expectations. In Australia, there is something off about Akira’s host family. As time goes on Akira learns that they too have suffered their own loss, and to begin with at least, Akira’s presence is not helping the situation.

I love the way Kathryn expresses the struggle of learning a foreign language:

“You often want to say something entirely different but you are limited to the vocabulary you know and you have to try and construct something from the little that you have. A bit like trying to make a salad when you only have braising vegetables, or trying to build a boat using nails. You get kind of warped into the shape of the words you know. There is a big gap between what you think and what you say. It would be a long time before I felt that the real me, the one with ideas and opinions and funny stories to tell, could find his way out again. For a while that person was trapped inside a new language.”

(Sometimes I feel this way with English too… except English is my first language.)

This is a lovely story, of how complete strangers can help each other heal, and how facing our fears often helps us overcome them.

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Welcome to 2017

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I’m more than a little relieved we have finally said goodbye to 2016. Many people complained that it was a terrible year, citing the ever-rising rate of celebrity deaths as one of the reasons the year was so awful, alongside the numerous other occurances and events that I’m sure I don’t need to mention here.

For me personally, the bulk of 2016 was not so bad. I worked hard, potentially too hard when I found myself a little burnt out in September and unable to even comprehend writing another blog post, despite the couple of ideas that popped up later in the year. But I kept up with my fiction writing, completing two novellas to achieve my 50,000 word count for NaNoWriMo, and editing various other stories, one of which is now submitted to a competition (cross your fingers for me!).

But for me and my local community the tragedy of 2016 occurred in the days leading up to Christmas, when the mother of one of our homeschooling families was killed in a car accident. She was one of the loveliest people I have ever met, and I’m still not sure I’ve convinced myself that I’ll never see her again. It has been a time of shock and sorrow, and yet also profound awe as the local community has pulled together to support the family and each other, in a way I’ve never witnessed before. It’s given me great hope for the future, despite the terrible things that are happening in this world.

You know, I was not ever going to write about Gem’s death on my blog, but there I have, and now I’m pondering whether to delete it, or let it stay, and how on earth do I move from that topic to what I intended this post to actually be about – which is my plans for the coming year?

Perhaps this is a time to follow through on the one New Years Resolution I have every year, which is to be brave. I regularly fail at it, and yet when I do remind myself of this resolution, and follow through, I find it that little bit easier to be braver next time.

So… on to this year.

Once again this year I’m taking part in the Australian Women Writers Challenge, and, along with my local writers group, have decided to read and review books by Tasmanian Women Writers. I’ve committed to six and have finished the first one ‘The Spare Room’by Kathryn Lomer. I read another of her books a couple of years ago, ‘Talk Under Water‘ and loved it, so was really happy to read another of her novels