The Railwayman’s Wife will be published April 5, 2016.
The story takes place in the town of Thirroul, in 1948, on the coast of New South Wales. The author’s vivid descriptions of the water, the library, the train station, and the beach really help the atmosphere of the book, allowing readers to imagine such beauty.
Anikka (Ani) Lachlan, wife to Mac Lachlan, a railway worker, and mother to 10 year old Isabel is happy to have made it through war times without any real devastation hitting her immediate family, when so many of the townspeople around her have become widowed. She spends her days caring for the family’s home and their daughter, listening to the distinctive, constant trains passing through, with an ear for that which will carry her husband home each day.
When Mac perishes in a devastating railway accident, Ani finds herself in a state of grief and disbelief, but knows she must continue on and provide for the family. She is offered a job as a librarian at the Railway Institute’s library, a job she is both nervous and excited about. When Mac was alive, she had dreamed of some sort of work to fill her days, but she knew her place in the family hierarchy was to be at home. Now, she is given a chance to step outside of her comfort zone to help others find literature for various reasons. Here, she forges unlikely friendships with two men. Roy McKinnon, a poet who was able to write during the harsh war, but since has been unable to come up with any words. Frank Draper, a young doctor, was in the first group of men to arrive as help to Nazi concentration and labor camps. Haunted with guilt at not being able to save so many people, he cannot find any happiness in his present occupation, even though the war is over. These men, friends since they were young, are both back in their hometown, sort of wandering through life aimlessly, trying to grasp a purpose for their futures. Enter Ani Lachlan, a beautiful, smart, quiet widow who brings a new warmth to the library. As Ani grows close to Roy and Frank, she finds herself slowly starting to swim away from the grief which was drowning her in the wake of Mac’s sudden passing.
There’s more to the plot than what I have mentioned of course, but I dare not give out any more details. I was captivated by the honesty of the characters, as well as the lyrical text. If you are looking for a fairy-tale ending, however, you won’t find it here. The ending is startling and tragic, but it fits with the mood of the story.