SHORTLISTED FOR THE BETTY TRASK PRIZE 2016
Pearl doesn’t know how she’s ended up in the river – the same messy, cacophonous river in the same rain-soaked valley she’d been stuck in for years. Or why, for that matter, she’d been stupid enough to fall down those rickety stairs.
Ada, Pearl’s daughter, doesn’t know how she’s ended up back in the house she left thirteen years ago – with no heating apart from a fire she can’t light, no way of getting around apart from an old car she’s scared to drive, and no company apart from echoing footsteps on the damp floorboards. With her daughter Pepper, she starts to sort through Pearl’s things, clearing the house so she can leave and not look back. Pepper has grown used to following her restless mother from place to place, but this house, with its faded photographs, its boxes of cameras and its stuffed jackdaw, is something new. Fascinated by the scattering of people she meets, by the river that unfurls through the valley, and by the strange old woman who sits on the bank with her feet in the cold, coppery water, Pepper doesn’t know why anyone would ever want to leave.
As the first frosts of autumn herald the coming of a long winter and Pepper and Ada find themselves irresistibly entangled with the life of the valley, each will discover the ways that places can take root inside us and bind us together.