Running Against the Tide is set on Eyre Peninsula, South Australia, in a small town that Erin runs to from Sydney, with her two sons, Mike and Ryan. The two boys are so unalike that Ryan ‘used to tell people they had different fathers, even though that wasn’t true’. Mike had been given the looks, the height, the ease with girls, and the talent at sport.
Ryan struggles in their new home at Mallee Bay, and misses the father that his mother and older brother were happy to leave behind, inflicting damage on others, property and himself.
Neighbours Jono and Helen take Erin and the boys under their wing. Jono has a lease on an oyster farm, but his doctor and his wife are urging him to retire. He takes on Mike as an assistant, and is one of the few who get through to Ryan who seems bent on a path of self-destruction.
Cyclone Erin, as was her nickname as a child, left ‘a trail of destruction in her wake’, in contrast to her sister Anne, who always seemed unruffled and controlled. She is trying to break that pattern, but the dramas of the family lead the sisters into dangerous territory.
Ortlepp has produced another tight book that I couldn’t put down, caught up in the lives of these people and this small town captured so well. I look forward to more of her work.