Unpacking Harper Holt

Written by Di Walker 

Reviewed by Margie McKay-Lowndes

In this emotive coming of age story, set in a picturesque beach-side suburb of Melbourne, Di Walker’s debut novel presents a story of hope in the face of
unimaginable grief and loss.

The Holts – Mum, Dad and Harper are constantly on the move due to Dad’s job. This is a problem for the emerging teen, who longs to dig in and become connected to a community. When the family lands in a pretty cottage in the midst of a friendly and accepting neighbourhood, Harper’s yearning for a solidly grounded family lifestyle intensifies. Her mother, ever organised and proactive, quickly makes links with coffee shop staff, other mothers at the dance school, school teachers and the principal, providing Harper with a solid foundation for her transition into the new area. Her Dad, with typical ‘Dad-humour’ teasingly calls her ‘Harpoon’. They share a love of cycling and take great interest in the bike path by the sea near their new home.

A dramatic turn of events plunges the story into an emotional space from which it emerges gently as the rest of the story unfolds. Walker’s focus on the minutiae of the catastrophe and the  ensuing implications for Harper and her family, help to evoke an intense emotional reaction in the reader. Harper’s journey, is rendered realistically by Walker’s descriptive detailing of everyday routines which would be recognised by many readers – the bike path beside the sea, the trendy coffee shop, welcoming schools and dance classes. Not everyone is welcoming however, and there are bullies to be challenged among other problems to be overcome. How will Harper achieve her dream of settling down? She needs to draw  deep on inner strength and resilience to emerge victorious.

A great read for lovers of realistic contemporary fiction who don’t mind a good cry.

Walker Books 2018 Paperback $16.99 Age from 11 years ISBN: 978-1-760650-59-9

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