Title: Season of Shadow and Light
Author: Jenn J McLeod
Published: Simon & Schuster May 2015
Status: Read from April 28 to 30, 2015 — I own a copy
“Light can illuminate truth, let us see things we might otherwise unknowingly pass by in the dark. It can also illuminate the signs that will allow each of us to find the road to forgiveness, to trust, to hope, to belief and to the future.”
An engaging story of secrets and lies, of trust and betrayal, of family, friendship and forgiveness, Season of Shadow and Light is Jenn J McLeod’s third novel of contemporary fiction set in rural New South Wales.
Unhappy and frustrated after a difficult few years, Paige Turner decides to take her six year old daughter, Matilda, and mother, Alice, and spend two weeks in country New South Wales. Their destination, Saddleton, is determined by signage visible in an old photograph of Paige’s mother in her youth, but rising floodwater results in the trio becoming stranded in the tiny town of Coolabah Tree Gully. Though Paige is content to enjoy the hospitality of the generous locals who offer the family a place to stay, Alice is increasingly anxious. Coolabah Tree Gully is home to a secret Alice has kept for decades and, should it come to light, has the potential to destroy everything she holds dear.
The story of Season of Shadow and Light unfolds primarily from the perspectives of Paige and Alice, two richly drawn, complex characters confronted with a legacy of secrets.
Paige has had an extraordinarily difficult time recently. A late term miscarriage was followed by a postpartum stroke, leaving her with physical deficits and destroying her career as a food critic. Learning of her husband’s infidelity pushes Paige to the breaking point, motivating her to escape to the country with her daughter and Alice. Paige choose Saddleton as a destination with the vague notion of tracing the origins of a photo of her mother, Nancy, unwittingly ending up in the town her mother fled in the dead of night almost forty years earlier. Paige of course has no idea about her mother’s past, but nevertheless feels incomplete.
“I lost the things that made me who I am, the things that made me feel complete as a person. You know that jigsaw puzzle Mati has – the one with the missing pieces we searched high and low for that day? That puzzle is me. There are pieces missing, and I don’t mean my sense of smell and taste. The fact I can’t explain what I feel frustrates the hell out of me.'”
Alice has been Paige’s sole parent since the death of Nancy, her partner and lover, when Paige was ten. Aware of Nancy’s hidden past, Alice had promised never to reveal the truth of it to Paige, but stranded in Coolabah Tree Gully it becomes harder for her to determine exactly who she is protecting, especially when she is confronted with the consequences of keeping it to herself. Alice really struggles with the thought of not only betraying Nancy, but being held accountable by Paige.
“An improbable set of circumstances.
An impossible situation.
How long could she hold on to the truth? Should she hold on?….Was she obligated to protect the deceptions of the dead when the truth might somehow help the living?”
A low key element of romance is introduced by Aiden, a local man recently returned from Sydney, ‘cheffing’ in the local pub, his own future in tatters after being betrayed by his ex-girlfriend. He is attracted to Paige, who appreciates the attention given the state of her shaky marriage, and eventually proves to be a link between Paige and her mother’s secret but to be honest I thought Aiden’s point of view, shared in brief chapters throughout the novel, wasn’t really necessary.
Through her characters McLeod explores issues such as miscarriage, stroke recovery, infidelity, identity, same sex partnerships, and organ transplantation. The larger themes of the novel examine the nature of loyalty, trust, deception and betrayal. Suspense stems from the nature of the secret that Alice is keeping and the anticipation of Paige learning it. McLeod skillfully teases out the details of Nancy’s hidden past but I did feel there were times when the narrative stalled briefly, repeating Alice’s angst and Aiden’s upset a little too often.
“Love is about connection.” says Alice, and Season of Shadow and Light is a story about connections – between partners and lovers, between parents and their children, and between siblings – tested, sometimes frayed and weakened, but strengthened by forgiveness, trust and love.
Season of Shadow and Light is available to purchase from
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