In Sally Piper’s second novel, The Geography of Friendship, she tackles grittier issues. The old hierarchy of school friends continues when Lisa calls Nicole and Samantha and asks them to retrace the steps of the trek they took as young women over twenty years before.
The layers of these women, as they were at school and how they are now as adults, are shown with all of their insecurities, fronts and flaws. The book is character driven, but is also a slow burning thriller, where they remember the first time they walked and camped out together in this rugged terrain.
Reflecting on the development of their friendship, the women they have become and how that first time in this space changed everything for them.
The book ruminates on the choices women make – marriage – ‘She wishes all the texture of their early relationship could be returned to them – the crushing passion, the fear of absence, the urgency with which they seized love in order to not risk losing it’; ‘There is a layer to him that is missing now. It’s the one she fell in love with’, children and our expectations of them – ‘It wasn’t order or disorder Hannah would grow into. It was a version of herself that was as far removed as possible from that of her mother. Lisa hadn’t known whether to feel proud, disappointed or terrified for her’ and those that avoid both – ‘She told them she has never married. No children. Noisy pests … Like fruit bats. They don’t shut up till they go to sleep’.
The descriptions of the country and the isolation add to the suspense – ‘The wind had kept up into the evening last time. It blustered through the canopy and tossed leaves and twigs about. The fabric of their tent was pushed inward with each blast, then sucked outward again, liked puffed cheeks, with a ripping sound as the wind eddied about’.
The novel shows how certain events in our life can have lifelong, far-reaching effects –
‘Lisa sees the impact of these forces on the landscape but what she can’t know is how much this landscape has damaged her. Damaged them. How much of what happened here has been carried with them into the everyday, washed up in their lives like those fragments of stone. If she could remove just one experience from her life, it would be the one that happened in the car park at the start of their hike last time’. The what-ifs, the points where I screamed at them to turn around, to go back, be safe all led to the grisly climax. ‘All she can think about is how different her life might have been had she never set foot in this beautiful, treacherous place’. If we could turn back time, the different choices we might make.