4 August 2015
Losing Kate gets your attention right from the start and doesn’t relent until the very last page as Francesca (Frankie) Hudson’s story holds you captive.
Frankie and Jack Shaw were friends from infancy until a “schoolies” camping trip in which Kate Shepherd, Frankie’s best friend, and Jack’s girlfriend, disappeared with her body subsequently washing up on the beach. This culminated in Jack’s family moving away from the town to escape the accusing eyes, and taunts of the neighbourhood, and a lifelong friendship was torn apart, leaving Frankie devastated, and trying to pick up the pieces as she continued through life with only her memories.
Now a case worker at the hospital, and having recently dumped her boyfriend Seamus, after a “skank incident”, her life is on track. She’s got her job, her little worker’s cottage which she is slowly starting to renovate and her dog Bear. That is, until Jack walks back into her life.
It’s been thirteen years, but as she sits on her dilapidated verandah with her friend Meg, watching the unfolding scene of the auction of the property behind, she is shocked and disbelieving but yes, it’s definitely him. She'd know that neck anywhere!
Despite the fact that he walks over and speaks to her, and hesitant introductions are made with his partner Sara and toddler son Oli, she becomes disillusioned when he later reveals that Sara knows nothing of his past and, in Sara’s company, begins to treat her “like somebody that he used to know”.
Downplaying their past for the benefit of the superficial Sara has its drawbacks, but as they resume their friendship beyond her prying eyes, all the old memories about their childhood and how they thought they would become more than friends, come flooding back to the present. And the one they thought most deeply buried? It’s dredged up all over again – the lies, the pain, the hurt, the guilt!
If that’s not bad enough, when Frankie’s brother Ben makes an unannounced entrance at possibly the worst moment, innocently letting the cat out of the bag, Sara finally learns the truth about their past relationship, and also Kate’s fate.
When things deteriorate even further after this pivotal event, Frankie begins to feel that she can no longer pretend that there is nothing between her and Jack and resolves to try and find out the truth by visiting Kate’s mother, which only raises further questions than answers when Jess hands her the shell necklace that Kate had made on that fateful night so long ago.
Could the necklace be a silent whisper to the living? If so, will Frankie and Jack finally find some closure on a chapter of their lives that has haunted them all these years thus gaining the unconditional love and happiness they so deserve?
Told in first-person POV, seguing between the past and the present, Frankie gives us the story with the dialogue between the characters expanding on what has brought them to this point in their lives. While I personally don’t find it easy to fully connect with characters in a novel that is written in first person because there can be a distinct lack of information regarding the secondary characters, Kylie (like a few other Australian authors I have recently read) has outdone herself and got one of the cardinal rules of fiction down to a tee – that of showing and not telling.
This well-known writing rule can be seen throughout the novel as she incorporates some great dialogue between her characters, using it to create personality, emotion, mood as well as a sense of place, whether it be Jack and Frankie in her little run-down cottage having their first real conversation, to the tragic scene on the beach of teenagers torn apart when they can’t find their friend or the scene in which Jack tries to placate Frankie’s embarrassment as an eleven year old who has just become a woman, thereby fully developing them and the psychological baggage they carry around, through Frankie’s eyes.
In a recent Author Round-Up held with Kylie on my blog I asked her to share a bit about her journey to becoming an author. She stated that “I never set out to be an author” but remembers making up stories during “journal time” after year two little lunch. She went on to say that “As a grown up, writing started as a housework avoidance strategy” (well, who of us likes housework) but, after attending a few day courses at the Queensland Writers’ Centre, she sent sample chapters to the “slush pile” at Random House.
Thankfully someone recognised Kylie’s talent and gave her a contract because Losing Kate is a brilliant debut that had me literally holding my breath throughout as Kylie ratcheted up the tension (both sexual and conflicting) between Jack and Frankie as well as the suspense surrounding the disappearance of Kate, not once giving us any hint as to the circumstances of Kate’s demise until the final chapters.
Kylie Kaden is yet another Aussie author who has rightfully gained a place on my bookshelf with this knock-out debut interweaving love and jealousy, loss and redemption, while also exploring those carefree, hazy, lazy summer days of our childhood.